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Diabetes and Sleep: How are they linked?

Loss of sleep and diabetes are interdependent, being the cause and effect of each other. A human being needs 6 to 8 hours of good sleep for functioning properly. Any amount of sleep less than or more than this amount would lead to health complications in diabetics. At the same time, sleep is also affected by the blood sugar level. 

Loss of sleep and diabetes

Effect of diabetes on sleep

One in every two diabetic patients suffers from sleep-related problems due to fluctuating blood sugar levels. High blood sugar level or hyperglycemia can increase thirst and urge to urinate. Frequent trips to the bathroom and to drink water can disrupt the sleep of a diabetic. On the other hand, low blood sugar level or hypoglycemia can cause nightmares, sudden night sweats, irritability and confusion. 

Sleep-related problems caused due to diabetes:

  1. Restless legs syndrome – About 20% of people with Type 2 diabetics suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). RLS is characterized by an uncomfortable tingling or irritating sensation in the legs that makes the person want to keep his legs in motion. This constant sensation to move the legs interferes with getting good sleep. RLS might be caused due to an iron deficiency or peripheral neuropathy. The sensations caused by RLS can range from irritating to painful. It is advised to consult the doctor if you have Restless Legs Syndrome.
  2. Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition, usually paired with diabetes, that causes the breathing to stop and start throughout the night. This continuous stop and start of breathing results in snoring or long gasping. These can cause micro-arousals or very brief awakening that degrades sleep quality. In a 2009 study, 86% of diabetic people also suffered from OSA and in this population, 55% of the people’s conditions were severe enough to require medical attention. OSA is common in the age group of 35-54 and obese people. This condition can be treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices that can keep the nasal pathway open and restore normal breathing and good sleep.
  3. Insomnia – Insomnia is a condition in which the person is unable to fall asleep or stay asleep continuously. High-stress levels and high blood sugar levels increase the risk of insomnia.

Loss of sleep and diabetes
 

Effect of loss of sleep on diabetics

In a study, when people with Type 1 diabetes were restricted to only 4 hours of sleep, their insulin sensitivity was reduced by 20% compared to those who got a full night’s sleep. Insufficient sleep can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate. Experts also suggest that lack of sleep causes a hormone imbalance that can affect the food intake and weight of the person.

Diabetic complications caused due to lack of sleep:

  1. Sleep deprivation results in a deficiency of energy to carry out daily activities, resulting in an increase in appetite to compensate for that loss of energy. The choice of food taken is also poor and this can cause blood sugar levels to rise causing hyperglycemia.
  2. Lack of sleep can lead to obesity as the body is more likely to burn muscle instead of fat. Obesity is a high-risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.
  3. Research shows that lack of sleep and insulin resistance are related. This can result in a condition known as prediabetes, which is also a risk factor for diabetes.
  4. Sleep deprivation can increase blood pressure, and consequently increases the risk of heart attacks. It also compromises the immune system, which is dangerous for people with diabetes, especially for those who also suffer from foot ulcers. 
  5. Lack of sleep can also cause mental problems like depression and anxiety by impacting a person’s mood and emotion. Staying mentally healthy is critical for proper diabetic management.

Loss of sleep and diabetes

Coping with sleep-related problems:

Since we have established the importance of getting good sleep to manage diabetes and live a healthy life, here are some ways to overcome sleep-related issues.

  • Keep your blood glucose level in control. Unusual sugar levels at bedtime can affect the quality of sleep obtained.
  • Do exercise regularly and involve in physical activities as these can help you fall asleep quickly and improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Avoid electronic devices before bedtime. Exposure to bright light not only interrupts sleep but also deregulates metabolism causing fluctuations in body weight. A study shows that blue light exposure can cause insulin resistance and increase body weight. 
  • So it is advised to avoid usage of electronic devices like mobile phones, TVs, laptops at any time of the day, especially before sleep.
  • Go to bed at the same time every day. Having a routine regulates our internal clock, causing us to feel sleepy at the right time without any effort.
  • Make sure you have proper ‘sleep support’. The bed should be large and comfortable, the pillow should be of the right height, the room should be cool and properly ventilated, the room should also be dark and free of any distractions.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine before bedtime as this can mess with your sleep. Exercise should also be avoided just before bedtime, as it increases blood flow and it takes some time for the body to cool down to normal.

Diabetes can cause a lack of sleep, and a lack of sleep can cause diabetes. It is important to not get stuck in this bitter cycle. Adopt a suitable lifestyle to improve the quality of sleep you get.  Diabetics should be concerned about the amount of sleep they get, as it can cause various complications. Proper sleep is equally important as a balanced diet for diabetics.

With sleep playing such a critical role in the onset of Diabetes, Twin’s Reversal Program has it covered too. It uses Artificial Intelligence to maximum effect to monitor over 3000+ metrics daily & provides a precision sleep plan. It studies the body inside out to gauge what patterns/behaviour affect sleep the most & provides a sustained plan, unique as per the patient’s body that helps them get their minimum quota of daily sleep.

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