What Effect Does Diabetes Have On Sleep?

Diabetes has become a very common lifestyle disease today. It is a condition in which the body becomes unable to produce insulin properly. Insulin, a hormone made by our pancreas, is important for the body as it allows us to utilize glucose (sugar) from carbohydrates in the food we eat for energy. It can also store glucose for future use.

Insulin is the hormone that helps to keep our blood sugar levels from becoming too high or too low. In diabetes, when the body fails to produce insulin properly, there is no control left over our blood sugar levels and they tend to fluctuate between too high or too low. It is quite common for people suffering from diabetes to have sleep problems. Sleep is very important for diabetics because sleep has a direct effect on your blood sugar levels, causing it to fluctuate, Vice versa, abnormal levels of blood glucose is also known to affect your sleep, resulting in trouble sleeping. So how does diabetes affect your sleep and what can you do to solve this problem? Let’s take a look.

What Effect Does Diabetes Have On Sleep?

What Effect Does Diabetes Have On Sleep?

Many studies have explored the association between sleep disruptions and diabetes. Sleep disturbance is a broad term that includes having difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep, sleeping too much, and having disturbed sleep. A 2012 study established that there is a direct relationship between diabetes and sleep disturbances. In fact, the study found that being deprived of sleep puts you at a much higher risk of developing diabetes.

However, this does not translate to mean that just because you have diabetes, you will have trouble sleeping. It only indicates that certain symptoms of diabetes are more likely to cause a disturbance when you are trying to sleep. Let’s take a look at these symptoms:

  • Low levels of blood sugar cause symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, and shakiness, affecting your sleep if they occur in the night.
  • High levels of blood sugar cause frequent urination. If this happens at night, it means that you will frequently be getting up to use the bathroom.
  • Having extra glucose in the body tends to draw water from tissues, making you feel dehydrated. This will make you get up often in the night to drink water.
  • If your blood sugar levels become too high or too low during the night, you will also find yourself being tired throughout the next day. Lethargy and insomnia are closely associated with blood sugar levels and are also key in establishing a healthy sleeping routine.

High Blood Sugar = Low Sleep

Having high blood sugar levels is the number one reason for disturbed sleep. Not getting enough sleep is going to make you feel tired, and tired people tend to eat more as they want to gain their energy from some source. This usually means that you are consuming more sugar or having foods that can increase your blood sugar levels. If you do not eat properly during the day, then you will not be able to get your blood sugar under control in the night, thus having disturbed sleep, and end up feeling tired and lethargic the next day. Having your blood sugar under control will not only help you get a good night’s sleep, but you will also wake up feeling energetic.

Relation Between Lack of Sleep & Diabetes

Not only can lack of sleep increase your diabetes symptoms, but lack of sleep can in fact even cause diabetes in people who do not have it. Evidence suggests that sleep deprivation can lead to a pre-diabetic condition in the body. When you suffer from lack of sleep, your body’s reaction to this state often mimics that of insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. The job of insulin is to store glucose for energy. When you have insulin resistance, cells are unable to use insulin effectively, thus resulting in high blood sugar levels. When the cells are unable to properly use insulin or the body does not produce insulin, circumstances become just right for developing diabetes.
Lack of sleep also tends to make you gain weight. Studies have shown that people who do not get an adequate amount of sleep are usually heavier than those who get a good seven to eight hours of sleep in the night. Being overweight or obese is yet another risk factor for developing diabetes.

What Sleep Disorders Are Connected To Diabetes?

Having a disturbed night of sleep is common in diabetics. While this may be a result of diabetes symptoms, it is possible that you are suffering from a separate medical condition or a sleep disorder. It has been shown that sleep disorders are more common in people having diabetes than in people who are not diabetic. Some of these sleep disorders that are commonly associated with diabetes include:

  • Sleep Apnea: One of the most common sleep disorders in diabetics, sleep apnea causes your breathing to repeatedly stop and restart throughout the night. It is one of the most common causes of snoring as well. People having type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed with sleep apnea as this group of people tend to be overweight or obese, a factor that can constrict their airways. Maintaining a healthy body weight is likely to provide relief in your symptoms. There are also special masks available that you can wear while sleeping to increase the air pressure to your throat, allowing you to breathe easily.
  • Insomnia: Another common sleep disorder afflicting diabetics, insomnia is typically characterized by frequent trouble in falling asleep and staying asleep. If you have a high level of stress along with high blood sugar levels, you are at a higher risk of developing insomnia. Therapy with a medical professional to determine what is the underlying cause of your stress and inability to fall asleep is likely to help in curing insomnia. There is no medication as such that helps treat insomnia.

How to Get Good Quality of Sleep with Diabetes?

Here are some suggestions that may help you get a good night’s sleep.

  • Stop using electronic devices such as smartphones before sleeping. The light emitted from smartphones and e-readers will keep you up. Try to calm your mind before going to sleep. Reading an old-fashioned book before going to sleep will not only quieten your mind, but it will put a lesser strain on your eyes.
  • Remove distractions from your bedroom. Consider turning off your phone and removing the television set from your bedroom. Use an actual alarm clock instead of putting the alarm on your cell phone.
  • Avoid having alcohol before bedtime. Drinking around bedtime is unlikely to give you a good night’s sleep. Even if you feel that having a glass of wine calms you down, it is likely that you will keep getting up in the night to use the bathroom, thus disturbing your sleep cycle.
  • Create a bedtime routine and follow it. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up also at the same time every morning. You should follow this even on the weekends. This will start getting your body habituated to the routine and you will start feeling tired every day at the same time and wake up automatically every morning also at the same time. Having a routine helps your body get a good night’s sleep.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages or stimulants at bedtime. Do not indulge in activities that will make your body active just before bedtime. Avoid having caffeinated beverages, exercising, or even doing housework just before you go to sleep. By doing all this you make your body remain alert, making it more difficult to fall asleep. You can practice a slow-paced yoga workout that will calm your body, preparing it for sleep.


If you continue to have disturbed sleep, then it might be a good idea to consult your doctor. As most doctors are aware that diabetes causes disturbed sleep, your doctor will be the best person to recommend the needful to help you sleep better. Changing your lifestyle to improve the quality of sleep is also recommended. Start by making one small change at a time and do not rush into any big changes as it may be difficult to adjust to a big difference.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 29, 2018

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