Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death affecting over 30 million Americans. The most common type is type 2 diabetes which is a chronic disease caused by insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone that takes part in the transfer of glucose from the blood to the muscles, fat, liver, and other cells, where it is used as a source of energy. So, when the body is unable to produce insulin or unable to transfer glucose into these cells insulin resistance occurs.
As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, i.e., high blood sugar, which is the major symptom of diabetes. If left untreated or managed properly, insulin resistance can have a negative impact on the heart, kidneys, and other organs.
In addition, surprisingly but true, another common symptom of type 2 diabetes is insomnia or poor sleep quality. Hence, we can conclude that sleep and diabetes are connected. To see to what extent and learn the details, continue reading this article.
The Connection Between Diabetes and Sleep
Statistics show that about 50% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes experience trouble sleeping as a result of unstable blood sugar levels and other symptoms related to diabetes. Namely, both hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) during the night can cause insomnia and daytime fatigue.
Namely, in the case of hyperglycemia, the kidneys try to overcompensate by causing frequent urination. Therefore, these frequent bathroom visits lead to disturbed sleep. Similarly, high blood sugar levels can lead to headaches, tiredness, and increased thirst which altogether makes it difficult to fall asleep.
On the other hand, in the case of hypoglycemia, typically due to not eating for too many hours or taking the wrong balance of medication, people with type 2 diabetes can have nightmares, sweat excessively, or feel irritated or confused once they wake up.
That said, if you have trouble sleeping, experiencing fatigue, or just worry about other symptoms, ensure you consult your doctor to analyze the reason for your symptoms.
Poor Sleep and Blood Sugar Levels
Not only can diabetes cause sleep issues, but sleep issues can also play a role in diabetes. Precisely speaking, getting less restorative slow-wave sleep has been closely connected to high blood sugar levels in those with diabetes and prediabetes.
But it is still unclear which is the cause and which is the result, and whether more variables should be considered. Still, researchers say that poor sleep affects blood sugar levels because it affects insulin, cortisol, and oxidative stress.
In short, here’s what studies have found on how poor sleep can affect blood sugar levels:
- Sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing insulin resistance.
- Later or irregular sleep is accompanied by high blood sugar levels, even in those who don’t suffer from type 2 diabetes.
- Lack of sleep also elevates ghrelin levels, the hunger hormone, and reduces leptin levels, the hormone that makes you feel full.
- Type 2 diabetes patients who experience disturbed sleep are at higher risk of not following other diabetes self-care standards.
- Those who take sleep medication are more likely to suffer from psychological distress.
- Diabetes patients who also experience sleep issues are at higher risk of cognitive decline later in life.
The bottom line, the link between lack of sleep and diabetes is evident. Therefore, consult your healthcare provider to get the right sleep aids for diabetics or additional recommendations for getting good quality sleep.