Diabetes and Sleep Dysfunction
How Improved Sleep Helps

Diabetes and sleep dysfunction become a destructive cycle, making each other worse. The good news is that improving sleep also improves diabetes.

The sleep and diabetes connection appeared when nurses who work the night shift proved to be at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. So night shift workers are warned to watch for prediabetes.

Sleep cycle disturbance may be the cause. One of the symptoms of prediabetes according to the newest research is sleeping for less than six hours.

This should matter to you. Why? Because diabetes and sleep dysfunction are connected, and because fixing sleep disturbance improves diabetes.

How Bad Sleep and Diabetes Affect Each Other

Why do so many diabetics have problems with sleep? For one thing, we are more likely to have sleep apnea.
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Also, high blood sugar from untreated insulin resistance has been linked to shortened sleep hours. This is why the symptom of short sleep time was recently added to the warning signs of prediabetes.

High or low blood sugars are another connection between diabetes and sleep. Feeling groggy when you wake up or having trouble falling asleep at bedtime warn you that your blood sugars are too high.

Then there is hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar shocks you out of sleep with sweating, shakes, anxiety and blurred vision.

Treating this symptom and staying up to make sure the hypoglycemia does not return keeps you awake for a while.

Plus there are foot pains, muscle cramps from diuretics and neuropathy, along with tingling and aching in hands and feet from paresthesias. These symptoms of diabetes make it hard to go to sleep and stay asleep.

Type 2 diabetic women who are going through menopause often have double the problems with diabetes and sleep disturbance. The menopause page explains this and what you can do for it.

What is the result? Blood sugar is harder to control in a type 2 diabetic who is not sleeping well. Lack of sleep adds stress, and chronic stress worsens the diabetic complications.

In turn, diabetic complications worsen sleep, which worsens stress. The cycle continues while diabetes and sleep disturbance go untreated.

Breaking the Cycle

There are natural substances that will promote sleep. Here are three: melatonin, tryptophan and magnesium. Using them will help to break the cycle between diabetes and sleep problems.

Eating magnesium rich foods like almonds, seeds and whole grain snacks before bed can improve the quality of your sleep.

Tryptophan is the enzyme in turkey that makes everyone sleepy after Thanksgiving Dinner. It is also found in watercress, soy protein, uncooked spinach, many seeds, and egg whites (in powdered form as well as raw).

Get Your Melatonin

You can find melatonin in pill form, but that is not the best way to get more of it. You cannot take it over a long period of time. But your body makes melatonin, and there is a way to boost your melatonin without pills.

When you get up in the morning, simply expose yourself to sunlight for a few minutes.

Go for a walk outside. This will set your biological clock by the release of serotonin, the hormone that works opposite melatonin to signal your wake and sleep cycle.

Melatonin release at night will be increased by simply adding a dose of sunshine when you wake up.

Exercise Helps You Sleep

Add to sunshine the benefit of exercise and you have done two things that will help you sleep better at night.

Yes, along with all its other benefits, exercise helps treat diabetes and sleep dysfunction. Just remember not to do aerobic exercise or strength training for at least two hours before sleep.

Doing it close to bedtime means you will not be able to go to sleep for a while.

The best exercise right before bed is stretching, deep breathing and meditative things. They help you wind down before you sleep.

Do you need suggestions for that? It is easy to find websites that teach stretches and muscle relaxation techniques.

Warm Baths and Chillows

Add a warm bath to your bedtime ritual. Try aromatherapy with lavender. This herb has been proven to aid onset and depth of sleep. Listen to calming music.

But do not watch TV in bed. Sleep doctors say this is guaranteed to shorten your sleep time. If it has become a habit, stop and you will see your sleep improve dramatically.

Some people love the calming effect of chamomile tea. Drinking it before bed calms their digestive system. But some people are allergic to it, so be sure you are not one of them before you try drinking chamomile tea.

Speaking of digestion, do not try to sleep right after a large or rich meal. Wait a little while before lying down.

Do not use alcoholic drinks to help you sleep. Alcohol may relax you at first, but just a few hours later it leaves your brain.

So sleep disturbance happens right when you are entering the deepest sleep, the kind that heals and restores you.

If you suffer from hot flashes or sweating at night, there is a pillow insert called a Chillow that helps keep your head cool. It is amazing how a cool pillow improves sleep.

When neuropathic discomfort wakes you, anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen can relieve it. If pain in your feet and legs makes you lie awake for hours, do not ignore it.

Try some of the remedies suggested here. They will improve your symptoms, your sleep and your blood sugar control.

Treat Sleep Dysfunction to Treat Diabetes

If none of the things you try are working, your doctor can offer you sleep, stress and pain medications by prescription. But you will have to ask.

Please do not ignore this problem. It is important to break the cycle of diabetes and sleep dysfunction. If taking medications helps and your sleep improves, so will your type 2 diabetes.

Exercise, eat right and use good sleep habits. Then you will not need those medications forever.

Treating diabetes and sleep dysfunction will help you get on with the things that matter to you, so do what you need to do. It is your journey. You decide.

  • "Everything is theoretically impossible until it is done." - Robert Heinlein

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