Are you one of the 34.2-million people living with diabetes in the United States? According to the National Diabetes Statistics report for 2020, more than 88-million Americans or one in every three adults have prediabetes, the precursor to type 2 diabetes.
People with diabetes have issues with managing the hormone insulin due to persistently elevated blood sugar levels. The pancreas manages insulin production, and high blood sugar levels cause lowered insulin sensitivity in the diabetic individual.
As a result, the person with diabetes requires exogenous insulin administration to manage their blood sugar metabolism. Should the diabetic individual not seek treatment for their condition, they start to experience adverse complications involving the kidneys, liver, heart, and other organs.
One of the particular physiological effects of diabetes is its interaction with our sleeping patterns. There is a known link between diabetes and sleep problems. People with diabetes often experience issues with interrupted sleep or insomnia, reducing sleep quality.
Let’s unpack the prevalence of sleep issues with diabetics.
Can diabetes cause chronic insomnia?
According to medical science, there is a link between insomnia and diabetes. Individuals with poor sleep quality are vulnerable to the development of diabetes.
A study analyzed data from 28,000 people that did not have any signs of diabetes. The participants all had a clinical diagnosis of insomnia in the period January 2001 to December 2004.
The research compares this group to data from over a million randomly selected participants drawn from the national health insurance database. The study also includes data from over 57,000 individuals with no history of insomnia but with the same physical traits as those individuals participating in the study.
The research clearly shows a link between diabetes and sleep problems. Here are the findings.
- People with insomnia have a 16% higher chance of developing diabetes.
- The risk for developing type 2 diabetes is higher in people with insomnia older than 40-years.
- The under 40 groups suffering from insomnia are 31% more likely to develop diabetes.
- The 41 to 65 age group with insomnia are 24% more likely to develop diabetes than those without insomnia or sleeping issues.
- Participants aged 66 and over with insomnia have a 6% higher risk of developing diabetes than the control group without insomnia.
- The duration of the condition in the affected individual matters. People dealing with insomnia for eight years or longer have a 50% higher risk of developing diabetes than the control group with sound sleeping habits.
- People suffering from the effects of insomnia for less than four years have a 4% higher risk of developing diabetes than the control group.
Sleep problems and diabetes
Medical science is at a loss to explain the exact link between insomnia and diabetes. Physicians also don’t clearly understand why insomnia leads to a greater risk of diabetes in prediabetic individuals.
Experts have a few ideas on the connections between diabetes, insomnia, and blood sugar levels. Some physicians believe sleep deprivation has a link to your glucose metabolism. A lack of sleep also has adverse implications for ghrelin and leptin production, the hormones responsible for triggering hunger and satiation.
Sleep issues stemming from insulin resistance
A study to find the connection between diabetes and sleep quality shows the prevalence of elevated insulin resistance in people that experience poor sleep. Therefore, these individuals have a harder time controlling the effects and symptoms associated with the disease.
As a result of poor sleep quality, diabetic individuals may contribute to more severe outcomes in affected individuals. In short, those individuals that find it challenging to control their blood sugar have a reduced quality of life and lower life expectancy.
Sleep issues stemming from blood sugar levels and/or diet
Since blood sugar levels affect our sleep quality, it’s safe to assume that poor sleep equates to higher blood sugar levels in affected individuals.
Research shows the following health and sleeping issues connected to high blood sugar problems in diabetics or prediabetics.
- Disordered breathing during sleep.
- Sleep apnea.
- Severe sleep breathing problems.
- Poor sleep quality has a link to reduced control of glucose levels in patients with diabetes.
- Poor or interrupted sleep has links to type 2 diabetes biomarkers in adults and children.
Diabetes symptoms at night
People with diabetes that have issues with their medication may experience problems with diabetic symptoms at night. If you experience insomnia at night and fatigue during the day, it could be due to issues with your medication. It may also be due to prediabetes progressing towards type 2 diabetes.
Some people may find they need to urinate at night due to the kidneys compensating for higher blood sugar levels.
Elevated blood sugar levels may also cause symptoms of headache, increases in thirst, and fatigue where the person wants to fall asleep during the midday to afternoon. Some patients experience night sweats and may feel confused or irritated when they wake up.
Addressing the issues – Fixing Your Sleep Hygiene
If you’re following your medication protocol, the problems with your insomnia or interrupted sleep may be due to your behavior. You need to examine your habits in the hours leading up to your bedtime. Follow these sleep hygiene tips to help your body relax and enter the sleep state.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Consistent sleeping habits are essential for managing your circadian rhythms.
Don’t drink coffee or energy drinks at least eight hours before bedtime. The caffeine in these beverages has a 4-hour half-life, and you’ll need time to work it out of your body before bed. Stop drinking coffee at 2 pm at the latest.
Other valuable sleep hygiene tips include the following.
- Invest in a good mattress. Your mattress plays a significant role in your sleep quality.
- Wear comfortable clothing to bed.
- Don’t eat 4-hours before bedtime.
- Don’t use a phone or screen device at least two to three hours before bedtime.
- Take a bath an hour before bed to relax.
- Try reading for 20-minutes before bed to make you feel drowsy.
Speak to your physician
If you’re experiencing insomnia or trouble sleeping, it could be due to prediabetes or diabetes type 2 affecting your sleep. Visit your doctor for a fasting glucose bloodwork test.
Your doctor will take a sample in their office and send it for analysis. If you have diabetes, your physician can recommend strategies and medications to improve your sleep quality.