People who have diabetes are known to have poor sleeping habits, including difficulty staying asleep or falling asleep. Some diabetics end up sleeping too much, while others are unable to get sufficient sleep. According to data from the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 63 percent of adults in the US do not get adequate sleep that is needed for optimum health, safety and functioning of the body. People who have type 2 diabetes face many types of challenges related to sleep and these sleep issues tend to worsen as people age. Pain or discomfort, obstructive sleep apnea, the frequent need to use the bathroom, and even restless leg syndrome are some of the many causes behind the sleep problems faced by people with type 2 diabetes. Let’s look at some tips you can follow to help sleep better with type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes and Lack of Sleep
Everybody knows the importance of getting enough sleep at night. However, people who have type 2 diabetes are unable to sleep even though they want to sleep.
According to statistics of the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 30 million American adults who have type 2 diabetes and face many sleep challenges, including difficulty in falling and staying asleep.(1)
Diabetes has long been linked with sleep difficulties and it has been seen that the issue tends to worsen as people age.(2)
According to the National Institute of Aging, elderly people need to have the same amount of sleep as other adults and typically, this number should be seven to nine hours per night.(3) This much amount of sleep is said to be ideal, but many elderly people experience several interruptions in their sleep every night due to their diabetes, the pain they experience, medications they are taking, and the frequent need to use the bathroom at night.
When you don’t get enough sleep, it puts your body under a lot of stress, ultimately causing it to release hormones like cortisol. Cortisol, a stress hormone, decreases the body’s insulin resistance and also increases blood sugar levels.(4)
Tips to Sleep Better with Type 2 Diabetes
Even though you have type 2 diabetes, there are many healthy lifestyle practices you can follow to promote good sleep. These are known as ‘sleep hygiene’ and most of these effective sleep hygiene methods are small-small things you can do yourself at your own home. For people who have type 2 diabetes, managing their sugar levels can also help them manage their sleep better.(5)
Here are some tips you can try for improving the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Control your Blood Sugar
One of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep is to focus on controlling your blood glucose or blood sugar levels. Managing your blood sugar levels will help you improve your sleep at night. Focusing on consuming lower glycemic foods will help you avoid any fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. These fluctuations in your blood sugar are known to contribute to poor sleep.
For example, opt for choosing a high-protein snack, such as nuts over eating a sugar cookie. Also, avoid having low blood sugar levels at nighttime. You should make use of a continuous glucose monitor to help detect any fluctuations in blood sugar and also help you detect any episodes of low blood sugar in the night.
You should exercise regularly or participate in some form of regular physical activity. Exercising for at least three to four days of the week will help improve your sleep quality. Physical activity helps improve your blood sugar management and also helps improve your mood. This lowers stress, helping you sleep better. Try to get at least half-an-hour of exercise for at least four days a week.
Avoid Drinking Caffeinated Drinks Before Sleeping
Drinking any caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, black tea, caffeinated sodas and even any chocolate drinks is known to interfere with the body’s ability to fall asleep. If you want a good night’s sleep when suffering from type 2 diabetes, then avoid or at least restrict, the intake of caffeine throughout the day, especially try to eliminate it at least a couple of hours before your bedtime.
Manage Your Weight
If you are overweight or obese, you should work together with your doctor to set achievable goals for weight loss and weight management; especially if you are suffering from type 2 diabetes. By losing even ten percent of your body weight, you will notice better control of your blood sugar, and also a decrease in the risk of sleep apnea and depression.
Decrease the Distractions
The room in which you sleep should be free of any distractions, such as television, smartphones, tablets, and even clock radios can be a distraction since they are too bright. These devices interfere with your ability to fall asleep and also remain asleep; especially when you are suffering from type 2 diabetes. If you need to keep your mobile phone by your bedside, then you should change the phone’s settings to only receive urgent messages.
Consume High Quality Protein
Protein is important for managing your blood sugar levels. Therefore, you should focus on eating high-quality proteins, such as eggs, chicken and seafood. Consuming high-quality protein foods throughout the day will help you manage your blood glucose levels more effectively when suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Follow a Set Sleeping Time
It is a healthy habit to practice going to bed and waking up at the same time; especially when you are suffering from type 2 diabetes. This helps control the body’s internal clock. If you have trouble sleeping, then try to follow a set sleeping time even on the weekends. Having a consistent bedtime will help you sleep better.
Create a Regular Routine for Bedtime
At least an hour or two before your bedtime, you should try indulging in activities that help you wind down and relax. This helps to get your body ready for sleep. You can consider activities, such as breathing exercises, reading, having a warm bath or even a gentle yoga routine. A good bedtime routine will help you sleep better when you are having type 2 diabetes.
Create the Right Sleeping Environment
The overall environment in your bedroom is going to make a significant difference when it comes to having a good quality sleep; especially when you are suffering from type 2 diabetes. You should ensure that you have a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillow. Also, avoid sleeping in extreme temperatures – either too cold or too hot. You should also limit the amount of light that comes into the room, especially at sleeping time, both natural light and artificial light.
Avoid Taking a Nap in the Day
Naps are a wonderful thing that can help you get through your day; however, even a 15-minute nap in the day can cause interference with your nighttime sleep. So, if you are having trouble sleeping in the night, then you should try stopping your daytime naps for some time.
Following these lifestyle changes and these tips should help improve your sleep when suffering from type 2 diabetes. However, if even after following these lifestyle changes do not help improve your sleep, then it is important that you should discuss with your doctor. Conditions that have an impact on your sleep can be serious and should be taken seriously. Over a period of time, lack of sleep can cause long term health problems. Your doctor will be able to determine whether you have more serious sleep issues, such as sleep apnea or diabetic neuropathy and then recommend further diagnostic tests and treatment accordingly.
- CDC. (2019). CDC Press Releases. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html [Accessed 26 Apr. 2019].
- Grandner, M.A., Jackson, N.J., Pak, V.M. and Gehrman, P.R., 2012. Sleep disturbance is associated with cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Journal of sleep research, 21(4), pp.427-433.
- https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/good-nights-sleep National Institute on Aging. (2019). A Good Night’s Sleep. [online] Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/good-nights-sleep [Accessed 26 Apr. 2019].
- Khandelwal, D., Dutta, D., Chittawar, S. and Kalra, S., 2017. Sleep disorders in type 2 diabetes. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 21(5), p.758.
- Surani, S., Brito, V., Surani, A. and Ghamande, S., 2015. Effect of diabetes mellitus on sleep quality. World journal of diabetes, 6(6), p.868.
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