9 Ways to Sleep Better When You Have Diabetes
How Sleep Affects Type 2 Diabetes
Everyone needs good sleep, but it’s particularly important when you have type 2 diabetes. “Getting inadequate amounts of sleep can negatively impact blood sugar levels short and long term,” says Gregg Faiman, MD, an endocrinologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. In fact, sleep is as essential to your health as nutrition and exercise, he says. Too little sleep puts stress on your body, causing it to release hormones like cortisol. “Cortisol reduces insulin resistance and increases blood sugar levels,” Dr. Faiman says. Here’s how to get good sleep with type 2 diabetes.
Check for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder, is common among people with type 2 diabetes, saysKingman Strohl, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. When you’re overweight and have excess fat in your neck, it can cause sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing starts and stops while you’re asleep, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). If you or your partner suspects you have sleep apnea, ask your doctor about a sleep test. Sleep apnea can be treated with breathing devices and lifestyle changes like losing weight and quitting smoking, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports.
Keep Type 2 Diabetes Under Control
When your blood sugar is too high or too low, it can wake you up at night, says Joy Bierman Pape, FNP-C, CDE, of the Comprehensive Weight Control Centerat NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City and a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “One of the best things for better sleep with type 2 diabetes is to keep your blood sugar levels within your target range so you’re not having highs or lows that prevent you from sleeping well,” she says. To meet your blood sugar target, follow your treatment plan, which includes your personal meal and activity plan, and take medications as prescribed, Bierman Pape adds.
Most adults need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Many people don’t allow themselves adequate time for sleep, Faiman says, but if you have type 2 diabetes, it’s critical that you do so. Dr. Strohl agrees, adding that it’s essential that everyone, but especially those with chronic conditions like diabetes, plan for adequate sleep — just as you do other activities. “Never think sleep isn’t as important as watching TV or talking on the phone,” he says.
Get Into a Sleep Routine
Some of the tips for quality sleep with type 2 diabetes are the same as those for the general population, Faiman says. Near the top of the list for better sleep is having a regular routine for the time you go to bed and the time you wake up — on both weekdays and weekends, Bierman Pape says. When your sleep schedule is consistent, it helps your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) work best. Setting your body clock helps you fall asleep and wake up more easily, according to the NSF.
Turn Off Devices
Exposure to bright light — even from a smartphone — can increase insulinresistance, the body’s decreased ability to move blood sugar from your bloodstream to your cells to be used for energy. This is the finding of a study published in the journal PLoS ONE in May 2016. The study highlights the importance of turning off light sources — including your phone, TV, and computer — well before bedtime. Keep your bedroom dark throughout the night and you’ll sleep better, according to the NSF.
Don’t Drink Alcohol Before Bed
Alcohol affects blood sugar levels. When you drink alcohol, your liver slows down its ability to release glucose so that it can cleanse the alcohol from your bloodstream, and it takes about 2 hours for your body to completely metabolize any alcohol you’ve consumed, according to the InDependent Diabetes Trust. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation and with food, the organization says. Also make sure you do so well before bedtime so your body has time to recover. This, too: Not drinking too much before bedtime might prevent you having to get up to go to the bathroom. “Alcohol is a fragmenter of sleep,” Strohl says.
Exercise During the Day
You will sleep better at night if you exercise during the day. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can do the trick, the NSF says. Exercise can also help you burn calories and maintain a healthy weight, Strohl says. If you’re overweight, even a small amount of weight loss can help you better control your type 2 diabetes. Try to exercise about 5 or 6 hours before bedtime, according to the ADA. You’ll sleep better at night if you exercise earlier in the day.
Learn to De-Stress
Everyone deals with some stress, but people with type 2 diabetes are often under even more pressure due to managing a chronic condition on top of everything else. When you’re stressed it can disrupt your sleep, the Joslin Diabetes Center says. Find ways to de-stress before you go to bed. That could be deep breathing, visualization, yoga, meditation, or relaxing with activities you enjoy. If you’re awake at night for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed until you’re sleepy again.
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