If you have diabetes it’s very likely that you have a hard time getting good quality sleep. Below we give you the most common causes leading to sleep deprivation for you with diabetes.
Written by diabetes coach Hildegunn Fossheim
Everyone is dependent on a good nights sleep to get trough the challenges of everyday life. Though, around 60% of people with diabetes type 2 suffer from some kind of variation of sleep apnea. Previously sleep apnea has mainly been associated with diabetes type 2, but a study from 2012 showed that the syndrome is also common among diabetes type 1. The researchers behind the study found that 1 in 3 children with type 1 sufferers of sleep apnea – regardless of weight.
Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when your breathing stops and restarts several times during sleep. Pauses in breathing leads to snoring and frequent awakenings that disrupt your beauty sleep, and you don’t reach the deep stages of sleep where the body truly gets a good rest. Due to poor quality of sleep extreme sleepiness during the day is a common consequence of sleep apnea. Here are some of the most common links between diabetes and sleeping disorders.
INCREASED RISK FOR HEART PROBLEMS
It’s a widely known fact that people with diabetes often have a higher blood pressure than other people. Studies have shown that there is a clear link between high blood pressure and sleep apnea; more than 35% of all people with sleep apnea have a higher blood pressure than recommended, and it’s estimated that 30% of all individuals with high blood pressure have sleep apnea. Additionally, a high blood pressure during the night increases the need to urinate, and frequent urination isn’t exactly lucky for a good night sleep.
Blood pressure is the pressure the blood creates inside the arteries as it flows through, it’s essential in the function of the heart, kidneys, blood vessels and brain. The reduction of oxygen means that the heart has to work harder, which is a huge strain on the heart, and without treatment prolonged sleep deprivation leads to a higher risk of heart problems. A study conducted in 2011 showed that sleep problems can increase the risk of heart attacks up to 45 percent. In addition, the risk of having a stroke are four times greater among those who sleep less than six hours a night, than among those who sleep six to eight hours each night.
Neuropathy is especially common in people who have had diabetes for a long time or those who for a long time have struggled with a high blood sugar level. Amongst those with diabetic neuropathy an extremely painful tingling in their legs often disturbs their sleep. At the same time, I have had several patients report that pressure of the comforter over their feet is so bad that it keeps them up at night. For these cases sleeping with socks on can be a great help to reduce pain.
UNSTABLE GLUCOSE LEVEL
Hypos at night are obviously a great disturbance in the search for a good and consistent sleep. On the one hand it is very fortunate that most people wake up when blood sugar levels have been too low during sleep, while on the other side it greatly affects the quality of life if you suffer from sleep deprivation over longer time because your troubled by hypos at night.
High blood sugar levels can also affect your sleep. It may be that the high levels make it less comfortable for you to sleep because you feel hot, irritable or restless.
Another factor is whether you need to go to the toilet during the night. For people with regularly high blood sugar levels it can have a pronounced effect on your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
As with high blood pressure, obesity and deprivation effect each other mutually: while 40% of those with an BMI over 30 are affected by sleep apnea, studies show that less than six hours sleep gives a significantly greater chance of gaining weight. For example, a study conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota shown that people suffering from sleep deprivation ate 550 calories extra each day, resulting in weight gain over time. Poor sleep leads to increased insulin resistance, which results in the body producing less of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, which in turn leads to increased food intake, weight gain, and at worst – the development of type 2 diabetes.
HOW TO GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Want advice for how to sleep better? Stay tuned for next week’s tip.
When sleep problems are treated the result is most often an improved blood sugar, thus quality of life – you will finally have the extra energy to cope with the challenges of everyday life. If you suffer from sleap apnea it’s a serious problem that immediately requires help from a physician. When the pause of breathing is treated people experience a rapid improvement of their diabetes as well.
The solution to most of the problems mentioned above (blood pressure, neuropathy, hypo) is naturally lowering long-term blood sugar levels – the Holy Grail to avoid any diabetes problems. As we all know this is easier said than done. If all you needed to do was to wave a wand to have a perfect HbAc1 value you would have done it a long time ago. It doesn’t mean that you should give up and stop working toward a goal. Struggling with an unstable long-term blood glucose level, the most important is that you work with your physician to gradual work your way towards a value that you can live with everyday.