Anyone who has tossed and turned all night or woken up feeling sluggish, knows how rough it is to live without a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, poor sleep is all too familiar for people living with diabetes.
Too little sleep can increase blood glucose levels, resulting in prediabetes, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And then once someone has diabetes, they have a higher risk of sleep disorders. It’s a connection that we want to break up.
Many of us tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same time each day. This is called our circadian rhythm. Basically, each of us has a 24-hour internal clock that runs in the background of our brains. It’s the same part of the brain that releases the hormones that affect our mood and hunger.
Your internal clock works best when you get regular sleep. When things get in the way, it affects your circadian rhythm and hormones, like insulin and melatonin. Both affect your diabetes health.
Melatonin and Diabetes
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your internal clock. Typically, the hormone is higher at night when insulin levels are low. Then, during the day, the levels switch: melatonin is low and insulin is high.
Getting too little affects hormone levels. For example, if you only slept for five hours, your body’s internal clock may still think it’s nighttime. Since it thinks it is still time to sleep, it continues to produce melatonin. And high melatonin levels after waking up lowers the body’s ability to respond to insulin. This can lead to blood sugar highs and lows.
Where does melatonin come from?
Serotonin produces melatonin. Serotonin is what we call a neurotransmitter. More simply put, it sends messages between nerve cells. When it does that, it helps produce melatonin. In addition, serotonin comes from tryptophan, which is a protein.
What can you do to get a better night’s sleep?
The goal is to increase melatonin levels at night, while increasing levels of serotonin during the day. Creating this typical cycle of hormones can help you feel sleepy at bedtime and awake during the day.
During the day, let the light in by opening the curtains and making a point to get outside. At night, boost melatonin by dimming the lights and avoiding electronic screens right before hitting the pillow.
Foods that support sleep hormones
You can also eat foods that help support your melatonin and serotonin levels.
Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day
Caffeine has been shown to have a number of benefits. It’s also consumed by most of the U.S. population. We know it can help enhance focus, energy, and even fitness performance.
Yet, when it’s consumed late in the day, caffeine may stop your body from relaxing in time for sleep. In one study, consuming caffeine 3 hours and even up to 6 hours before bed contributed to sleep issues.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Environment
Many sleep experts believe that the bedroom and the way you have it setup can affect getting a good night’s rest. We’re talking about temperature, noise, lights, and even how the furniture is arranged.
In one study, 50% of participants noticed that their sleep improved when noise and light decreased.
Create a relaxing bedroom environment to help improve your sleep. Try to minimize noises, lights, and artificial lights from devices (like alarm clocks or phones).
Set your bedroom temperature so you feel comfortable all night long. For many 70°F seems to be the most comfortable sleeping temperature. But play around with the thermostat to see what you like best.
Rule Out Any Sleeping Disorders
One common sleeping disorder for those with diabetes is sleep apnea. This condition causes inconsistent and interrupted breathing. One study claimed that 25% of men and 9% of women have sleep apnea.
If you’ve struggled with sleeping issues for a while or have found that nothing has helped, it may be time to talk with your healthcare provider.
*For BlueStar users, track your sleep in the app. Then, share your report with your healthcare provider. This makes it easy to start a conversation about your sleeping habits.
Getting Better Sleep is Possible
Getting quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. Take care of yourself by making sleep a priority.