Morning wake-up stretch

Sleep and diabetes: How to sleep better for a better You

“You’re not healthy, unless your sleep is healthy.” – Dr William Dement

Ever had someone ask you, “Why so cranky”? How often is your reply, “Not enough sleep”? When we lack sleep – a cranky mood usually sets in for the day.

We all know that sleep is important. But how important is it, really? Optimal sleep reduces anger and impulsiveness. Lack of it makes one feel depressed, stressed, irritable and less able to enjoy positive experiences (that’s it – we need a nap)!

Let’s take the example of stress in relation to diabetes. As mentioned by Bonsignore (a diabetes educator at Joslin Diabetes Centre), inadequate sleep is associated with “chronic stress on the body”. Stress hormones can directly influence our blood glucose levels! Stress may also provide a trigger for unhealthy actions that follow (for e.g. consuming more ‘junk’ food, alcohol, and/or smoking), which may hinder your diabetes management!

With diabetes, sleep is more important than before. Do you know that sleep has direct associations with your blood glucose levels too?

A recent study in 2014 also showed how insufficient sleep is associated with poorer glycemic control. Another study showed that those who reported poorer sleep quality have also reported higher levels of HbA1c.

Diabetes and sleep disruptions

Have you ever wondered if high sugar levels contribute to bad dreams? Some of our GlycoLeap users have shared that both high or low sugar levels can lead to sleep disruptions such as increased toilet trips, nightmares, and waking up in sweat. It is possible that sleep is disrupted due to the symptoms when you experience a hypoglycaemic episode, or a hyperglycaemic episode. If you find that your sleep is disrupted frequently, do share about it with your doctor or health team.

Now that we are aware of the associations between sleep, mood and diabetes, let’s focus on the key part of this post: how do we get better sleep?

How to sleep better

Sleep is multidimensional.

Two common dimensions are Duration and Quality of sleep. Addressing these two dimensions can help you to achieve better sleep.

1. Duration according to age

The blue portions in this chart from the National Sleep Foundation highlights the recommended hours of sleep according to age. We see the trend of needing less sleep as we get older.

Sleep Duration recommendations
sleep duration recommendations

2. Quality – sleeping in 90min intervals

Interestingly, have you heard of sleeping in 90min intervals to get a fuller sleep? Some studies have shown that the optimal duration of sleep that contributes to quality-sleep is in 90min intervals. This is because it is the average duration needed to complete the stages of sleep (involving Rapid Eye movement (REM) sleep & non-REM sleep).

These studies suggest that sleeping for 7.5h a day will get you more well-rested than sleeping 8h! Is that true? Well, it’s only true if it works for you, right? What’s the harm of giving it a try? Try sleeping 7.5h today and see if you feel better.

3. More tips

Some general tips that may help you feel more well-rested includes:

– Keep your blood glucose under control

– Ensure your room well-ventilated

– Ensure your room is dark and free from noise – if this is not possible, you may benefit from a sleeping blindfold or ear plugs

– Exercise daily (even brisk walking is good choice of physical activity!)

– Stick to a regular bed time

– Reduce caffeine intake at bedtime (Yes, that can of coke has caffeine too!)

Sleep apnea

Despite the above tips to sleep better, people with diabetes may still find it difficult to get well-rested sleep. Studies have shown the associations between T2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea (disordered breathing that occurs during sleep). People with sleep apnea may experience breathing pauses during their sleep or shallow breathing which can affect the quality of their sleep.

If you feel that you have sleep apnea, talk with your doctor about the treatment and management options best suited for you! Lifestyle changes and the suggestions above can help in managing sleeping patterns.

Lastly, let me end off with a tip that many find challenging to adhere to:

Switch off your technology gadgets before bed

Technology is indispensable in our lives these days and the effects of the light emitted from our phone screens do impact our sleeping patterns.

Start small, and try switching off your phone 15min before sleeping. You may begin to see improvements as you transition to a more sleep-friendly environment!

As World Sleep Day approaches (18 March 2016), let’s make an effort to sleep better, for a better mood, and a better you.