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Sleep Can Be As Important As What You Eat

In our work with populations of individuals with diabetes or pre-diabetes, we frequently deal with sleep issues. Our experience is supported by research indicating sleep issues affect metabolism and may increase the risk of diabetes - and diabetes (particularly not well controlled diabetes) can worsen sleep issues. The cycle is destructive: sleep is for many a critical factor in their diabetes management.
  • The body's reaction to sleep loss resembles insulin resistance, so sleep deprivation may lead to a pre-diabetic state.
  • Tired people will usually eat more to get energy from somewhere. Those meals often take the form of sugary foods that can spike blood glucose levels.
  • Hyperglycemia itself causes the body to try to get rid of the excess glucose by urinating. This often leads to getting up frequently at night to use the bathroom – and thus not sleeping well
  • Diabetes is often associated with excess body weight, which leads to increased risk of sleep apnea, which leads to lower sleep quality and quantity. Sleep apnea prevents a person from getting a good night sleep.
The bottom line is that we rarely find a program participant without a sleep issue. Improving diabetes control can help improve sleep. Even more importantly, improving sleep can help improve diabetes control, productivity, absenteeism and overall wellbeing.
Where do we start? Education and support through the HealthPoints program is then the first step to improving sleep. This includes providing education on how to promote healthy sleep. For example: Maintain a consistent routine. Try relaxation techniques. Restrict alcohol and caffeine. Avoid heavy meals before bedtime. Try to eat consistently throughout the day. Exercise early, not immediately before bed.
In more severe cases, the participant may be referred to their physician to find other methods of improving their sleep. However, great successes may be had without expensive interventions and tests through education and continual reiteration of the fact that sleep can be as important to improving diabetes as what you eat!

Rebecca Dubowy, Chief Medical Officer



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