June 10, 2022
Type 2 diabetes and its impact on sleep
Sleep quality is an important issue in diabetes. Careful management and good sleep habits can help ensure a good night's rest.
By Heather Koga
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes diagnosed in adults, accounting for around 90% of diabetes in this age group. Sleep quality is an important issue in diabetes. It can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and many people affected by the condition experience poor quality sleep.
Sleep disorders include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much. In people with diabetes, factors that can impact the quality of sleep include high or low blood glucose during the night, being overweight and feeling depressed or stressed because of the condition.
Living with diabetes does not necessarily mean that sleep will be impacted. Symptoms and how they are experienced and managed play an important role. For example, when blood glucose levels are high, extra blood glucose goes into the urine and draws water from the tissues. This causes a person to urinate more often. High blood glucose can also impact sleep by causing headaches and increased thirst. In a similar way, the symptoms of low blood glucose – such as shakiness, dizziness and sweating – can impact sleep. Therefore, keeping blood glucose levels within the recommended range is important for a good night’s sleep.
Keeping blood glucose levels within the recommended range is important for a good night’s sleep.
Over time, poor quality sleep can have a long-term impact on people with type 2 diabetes. People who resort to sleep medication or have trouble staying asleep are more likely to report serious psychological distress. Adults with type 2 diabetes who experience interrupted sleep may also be less likely to follow other recommended elements of diabetes self-care, such as regular physical activity and blood glucose monitoring.
There are three common sleep disorders that affect people with diabetes:
Adults with type 2 diabetes who experience interrupted sleep may also be less likely to follow other recommended elements of diabetes self-care.
My personal experience and conversations with other people with diabetes who experience regular problems sleeping have allowed me to gather a number of insights on the issue.
The problems often begin before diabetes is officially diagnosed, sometimes a few years before. A common pattern is feeling tired during the day, which leads to going to sleep before 9pm, waking up at 1am and not being able to fall back to sleep until hours later. Regular visits to the toilet throughout the night and feeling hungry are common. This pattern is often made worse when the person affected is stressed about something.
Most of the people I spoke to reported spending the time awake doing chores, watching TV, using their devices or reading. The majority reported feeling tired the next day. Some experienced severe weight loss while others gained weight during periods of sleep loss. Everyone indicated that the issues were ongoing and they were not able to resolve them.
How to cope with sleep issues
Careful management of blood glucose levels and good sleep hygiene habits can help improve sleep for people living with type 2 diabetes. Here are some recommended daytime and nighttime habits:
Heather Koga has been living with type 2 diabetes since 2013. She is passionate about diabetes awareness and education and has been involved in a number of diabetes projects locally and internationally under the banner of the IDF Blue Circle Voices network.
You may also find these interesting