Tips to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

How much sleep are you getting each night? Everything going on right now is making millions of us toss and turn deep into the night. People don’t usually think about how sleep affects insulin sensitivity, but health experts and a new wave of recent research strongly suggest lack of exercise and nutrition may not be the only driver of developing Type 2. 

A number of qualified studies suggest maintaining a habitually short sleep duration overtime causes insulin resistance, which is a well-known driver of developing diabetes. It can also lead to a number of other serious health and cardiovascular issues including obesity, stress, poor immune system health, and even shorten lifespan. In fact, getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night is scientifically proven to not only increase the risk of developing diabetes but also make symptoms substantially worse for those who have it. 

In honor of Festival of Sleep Day which is celebrated every year on January 3, here is an explanation of the correlation between sleep and blood sugar, and a few tips from sleep experts that may help:

Why Disrupted Sleep Can Lead to Insulin Resistance 

There are important beta cells in the pancreas which normally are listening for a spike in glucose. Once they receive a signal, they should release insulin which drops blood glucose. Maintaining low quality or a short duration of sleep can cause the beta cells in the pancreases to become less sensitive to glucose and this in turn impacts how much insulin is produced and released in the body. 

Why? Well releasing insulin is key to instruct cells to absorb glucose, and those cells themselves can become less sensitive to the insulin signals. All of this can work to impact the body's ability to deal with insulin. Once the beta cells become intolerant to glucose, the pancreas stops producing as much insulin as your body needs, which causes blood sugar levels to remain high. 

Studies have shown sleep restriction over the course of a few days can lead to reduced insulin sensitivity and impact glucose tolerance. In fact, just one night of poor sleep can cause insulin resistance in healthy individuals. After 1 week of inadequate sleep, blood sugar can be so disrupted that some healthy individuals can be classified as pre-diabetic through an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). If a healthy body can deal with the raised level of glucose very quickly and bring it down very quickly — that's a sign of good glucose management. If that’s not the case, changing sleep habits and other lifestyle factors are strongly suggested to help.

How Else Does Inadequate Sleep Impact Blood Sugar?

Besides the above, poor sleep can cause more cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) to be released into the body. Chronic, unmanaged stress can worsen the symptoms of diabetes and result in unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and other risk factors that can make people not very healthy. 

Unmanaged stress can cause a number of health issues for those with Type 2, and also impact hunger and weight. As we mentioned previously, stress can decrease leptin and increase ghrelin (hunger hormones), which can all impact appetite, cravings, and the ability to maintain a healthy diet and weight over time. 

Additionally, when hunger hormones are impacted in this way, it can cause people to wake up early and hungry because of unstable blood sugar.

Fortunately, there is good news! If diabetes is under control, sleep can improve, and vice versa.

Tips From Sleep Experts to Help The Body Get Better Sleep Every Night:

Regular Exercise - Try HIIT!

Studies show High-Intensity Interval Training (HITT) can help promote healthy sleep habits, boost metabolism, and stabilize blood sugar levels. 

Eat Well

Many people think they can’t sleep because they have too much energy. But actually, it’s the opposite. The body doesn't have enough energy to go to sleep and sleep through the night. If blood sugar levels are out of whack, it impacts the body’s ability to burn fat and burn fat through the night. It’s recommended to eat 3 good meals per day low on the Glycemic Index (GI)  to not only make energy last between the meals but give the body the nutrition it needs to support a restful night's sleep. 

Practice Maintaining Regular Sleep & Wake Time

There’s a lot of new evidence about the impact of throwing off circadian rhythm. Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time every morning to help balance the body. 

Limit Electronics Before Bed

Light exposure before sleep can cause insulin resistance, and also impact the body’s production of melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally produced chemical in the body that is released when it is dark to signal the body it is time for rest.

Read and Meditate Before Bed

These are great ways to not only help with sleep quality and duration but also decrease stress levels.

So, as part of your health journey this New Year, try to prioritize healthy sleep habits and consider utilizing some of the above strategies for better rest, blood sugar management, and overall health.

If a certain strategy is working for you, help other diabetics achieve better sleep habits in 2023 by sharing your experiences and words of encouragement in the Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together" Facebook group.