Sleeping Challenges and Strategies with Type 2 Diabetes

Written by: Melissa Hawthorne, MS, RD, CDCES, LD

During the month of February one can see an abundance of hearts mainly from the Valentine’s Day advertisements

According the National Sleep Foundation, 63% of Americans do not get enough sleep at night. Experts
say a healthy amount of sleep per night is 7-9 hours. Chronically sleeping less than 6 hours a night can
alter hormone balance resulting in increased hunger for carbohydrates during the day, which results in
higher blood sugar levels. Also if a person is tired due to lack of sleep they are less inclined to have the
energy to exercise. Increased cravings of carbohydrates and minimal exercise lead to uncontrolled blood
sugars and potentially weight gain.

If a person has Type 2 Diabetes sleeping enough hours a night can be challenging for several reasons:

  • A person with uncontrolled high blood sugars will likely have the urge to urinate multiple times in the night resulting in restless sleep.
  • For those individuals on insulin or blood sugar lowering medication, a night-time low blood sugar may wake up the person.
  • People with diabetes have a higher rate of restless legs syndrome (RLS) and neuropathy. The pain of either of these conditions may prevent a restful night’s sleep.
  • Studies also show that people with diabetes have a higher rate of anxiety and depression which may lessen their hours of sleep at night.
  • It is recommended that anyone who has diabetes be tested for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People with diabetes are far more likely to have OSA than those individuals without diabetes. People with OSA may wake up hundreds of times during the night and not remember it, as well as complain they feel more tired even if they sleep for longer hours.

Sleep can be challenging for those with diabetes, but not impossible. Below are some sleep strategies
for more restful nights

  • Get moving – Vigorous activity is great for a person’s health and the exercise will tire them out so they will sleep better. However, experts recommend avoiding exercise right before bed as it may energize the person.
  • Get some sun – Sunshine promotes sleep by allowing the body to produce melatonin, which helps with night time sleep.
  • Rule out obstructive sleep apnea – As stated above this condition can hinder quality sleep.
  • Enforce quiet time before bed – Half an hour before bed begin a routine of meditation, quiet music, prayer, etc.
  • Prevent low blood sugar – Eat a snack of protein or add a complex carbohydrate to minimize the chances of a low blood sugar in the middle of the night.
  • Keep the same schedule – Going to bed and waking up at the same time, helps the body get into a sleep.
  • Go to bed when tired – Going to bed when not tired may lead to poor habits of lying awake in bed or watching television.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine before bed – Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants. Alcohol is a depressant, which keeps sleepers in the light stage of sleep and less refreshed upon waking up.
  • Avoid eating a large meal or beverage before bed – Large meals may lead to heartburn in the middle of the night and drinking a large amount of liquids before bed can wake to urinate.