It should come as no little surprise that good-quality sleep and improved diabetes control are connected. Why you ask?
Easy. Because good-quality sleep is connected to an improvement in almost every single condition or process related to the human body.
Want to improve your immune function? Sleep better. Want to lower your blood pressure? Sleep better. Want to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s? Well, don’t forget to sleep better. You name it and sleep will either lower your risk of developing it or improve your ability to manage it. Diabetes is no different.
Below we take a deeper look at how healthy sleep hygiene can help you improve your diabetes control.
Sleep and Blood Sugar Levels
We all know that feeling of grogginess that follows a poor night’s rest. You feel slow, sluggish, and unable to perform at your best. Well, guess what? It’s not just you that feels that way—it’s your cells as well.
Researchers have discovered that poor sleep affects performance right down to a cellular level. This dip in performance relates to how well our fat cells are able to respond to the hormone insulin. I’m sure you imagine this doesn’t mean good things for diabetes control.
Termed ‘metabolic grogginess’ by the team at the University of Chicago who discovered the phenomenon, our fat cells become much less responsive to the messages they are sent by insulin when they are tired.
Insulin signals to the body when to remove lipids and fatty acids from the bloodstream, when to burn them as energy and when to store them. When our fat cells are sleep-deprived, they tend to ignore or respond poorly to these messages. In fact, their sensitivity to insulin can drop by a whopping 30 percent. This means that unburnt fat and sugar remain in the bloodstream, playing havoc with blood sugar levels.
So even if you consider yourself to be eating well, if you’re sleeping badly you’re going to have a hard time getting a handle on your diabetes control. For hints and tips on how to improve your odds of getting a good night’s rest, visit the Sleep Advisor blog.
Sleep and Eating Habits
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels obviously has a lot to do with dietary control. Generally speaking, we are all aware of what food is good for us and what isn’t. The complicated part is willpower and getting a handle on how we respond to our cravings and appetite. Sleep has a big role to play here.
When we are tired, we crave energy. If we can’t get it from sleep, we supplement it from other sources, namely food. There are two very good reasons for this. Bear with me now, things are about to get a little hormonal!
While we sleep, our body looks to regulate our hormone levels, amongst other things. Two hormones that are very important for our eating habits are leptin and ghrelin, also known as the ‘obesity hormone’ and the ‘hunger hormone’ respectively.
Leptin is responsible for the type of food we crave. The better we sleep, the more leptin the body produces. The more leptin in our system, the less we crave high calorie junk food. This is the stuff that will send your blood sugar levels spiking!
Ghrelin, on the other hand, controls how much food we want to eat. This affects whether we are satisfied with one helping, or return for seconds, or even thirds!
Unlike leptin, we actually want less ghrelin. What do you think reduces levels of ghrelin? Yep—you guessed it—sleep of course. A good night’s rest reduces the levels of ghrelin in our system, and vice versa.
Diabetes versus Sleep
Unfortunately, just knowing that your ability to control your diabetes will improve with better sleep and actually getting more sleep are two very different things. Diabetes and sleep problems often go hand in hand.
It’s all about getting into a healthy cycle. If you can get your blood sugar levels under control through healthy eating, then the chances of sleeping better are improved. If you sleep better, your cravings and appetite will be easier to handle the following day. A healthy roll on effect will hopefully commence. Once you bring exercise into this, things begin to get a lot easier.
The ways to improve your sleep, diabetic or non-diabetic, are generally incredibly simple but so often ignored. Regularity—sticking to the same bedtime—will do absolute wonders for your ability to sleep. So will avoiding overstimulation before bed, in the form of screens (yes, all screens) and bright lights.
Getting your room temperature right—that means cool but not too cool—and ensuring your room is dark enough are the final two things you need to achieve a good night’s rest. How dark should your room be? Pitch black!
These suggestions are all quite simple to implement, but it will take time and effort to turn them into habits. It’s worth persevering, however, because the difference a good night’s sleep can have on your diabetes control and overall quality of life is massive. Here’s to a good night tonight and every night!
Guest blog by Sarah Cummings
Hi I’m Sarah. I’m a self-confessed sleep addict. When I’m not getting my fix in bed, I’m at my bed researching and writing about all things slumber. I fully believe sleep to be the most maligned and underutilized natural performance enhancer available to humankind. And it’s completely, and utterly, free. What are you waiting for people? To bed with you!