The Crucial Connection Between High Blood Sugar and Quality Sleep
When you’re managing high blood sugar, it’s common to focus on dietary choices and physical activity. However, one often underestimated aspect of high blood sugar care is sleep. The relationship between high blood sugar and sleep quality is significant, with each influencing the other in profound ways. Let’s explore the connection and learn how prioritizing good sleep can enhance your overall health.
The Impact of Sleep on Insulin Resistance
Sleep is a vital period for your body to rest and rejuvenate. Throughout the night, various essential processes occur, including memory consolidation, muscle repair, and a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. For individuals with high blood sugar, maintaining a lower resting heart rate and blood pressure is particularly crucial because the condition doubles the risk of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hormone regulation, including insulin, is another critical function of sleep. Poor sleep is associated with insulin resistance, where the body struggles to use insulin effectively to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Josie Bidwell, DNP, an associate professor at The University of Mississippi School of Medicine, emphasizes the importance of getting the recommended seven or more hours of sleep, stating that it can be a game-changer for those striving to manage blood glucose.
Studies have pinpointed seven hours as the optimal sleep duration. Research published in the journal Diabetes Care in May 2019 found that sleeping fewer than five hours or more than eight hours per night is linked to higher A1C levels in individuals with prediabetes or newly diagnosed high blood sugar. Moreover, sleeping less than six hours per night is associated with a higher BMI, increasing the risk of high blood sugar and complicating blood sugar control. Shedding even a few pounds can improve blood sugar management and reduce the need for medication, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
The exact reasons for the detrimental impact of excessive sleep on health are not fully understood. However, sleep loss can trigger a cascade of biochemical changes involving inflammatory substances like cytokines, potentially leading to insulin resistance. Additionally, sleep deprivation activates the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the fight-or-flight stress response, which can further decrease insulin sensitivity.
The Bidirectional Relationship Between Blood Sugar and Sleep
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can also disrupt sleep. High blood sugar can lead to increased urination as excess glucose is excreted in the urine, causing you to wake up frequently during the night. On the other hand, if blood sugar drops too low during sleep (nocturnal hypoglycemia), it can result in restless sleep, nightmares, and night sweats.
It’s worth noting that individuals with high blood sugar are up to three times more likely to experience depression, but a significant portion goes without help, as per the CDC. Depression and sleep problems often go hand in hand, further emphasizing the importance of addressing both conditions simultaneously. Having depression increases the risk of insomnia, and conversely, insomnia can elevate the risk of depression.
Given these factors, it’s not surprising that a substantial number of individuals with high blood sugar report sleep disturbances. A study published in the journal Diabetes Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research, Reviews in 2016 found that a quarter of more than 7,000 middle-aged and older adults with high blood sugar reported having a sleep disorder, with 77 percent experiencing sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, sleep apnea, or daytime sleepiness.Sleep’s Influence on Diet and Weight Loss Sleep significantly impacts hunger hormones, including leptin, which reduces appetite, and ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.
Inadequate sleep decreases leptin levels and increases ghrelin, leaving you feeling less satisfied with your meals and craving sugary and simple carbohydrates. This can contribute to overeating and hinder weight management. Not only does sleep affect what you eat, but it also influences how much you eat. A meta-analysis of 11 studies found that sleep-deprived individuals consume an extra 385 calories per day compared to those who sleep adequately. The additional waking hours provide more opportunities for eating, which can lead to higher blood sugar levels and worsening insulin resistance.
Improving Sleep Quality with High Blood Sugar
To enhance your sleep quality while managing high blood sugar, it’s essential to adhere to healthy sleep guidelines. Chauntae Reynolds, PharmD, CDCES, a spokesperson for the Association of Diabetes Care Education Specialists, recommends the following strategies:
- Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
- Avoid screens before bed, as blue light interferes with the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
- Incorporate physical activity into your routine to improve insulin sensitivity and promote better sleep.
- Prioritize sleep hygiene by keeping your sleeping environment dark, cool, and quiet.
- Establish a wind-down routine to relax before bed, which can help reduce anxiety associated with chronic conditions like high blood sugar.
- Minimize caffeine intake at least 8 hours before bedtime and avoid alcohol before sleep, as both can affect sleep quality.
- Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime to prevent elevated blood sugar levels during the night.
By recognizing the intricate connection between high blood sugar and sleep and taking proactive steps to improve sleep quality, you can better manage your condition and promote overall well-being.