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Sleep Disruption and Diabetes

Persons with diabetes not only have to deal with their sugar levels, they also have to contend with different sleep problems.

Sleep is unarguably the best form of rest – while experts are still looking for more concrete proofs of what sleep can actually do to the human body, there is no doubt that our bodies feel more energized, refreshed, and efficient after a good night’s sleep.

Evidence has it that not sleeping well could heighten person’s risk of acquiring diabetes. But for persons already with diabetes, getting enough sleep could be very difficult, with different sleep problems plaguing their bedtime.

Why do persons with diabetes suffer from these sleep disorders? Are these influenced by their disease? Does diabetes compound pre-existing sleeping conditions?

Sleeping problems 101
Persons with diabetes experience difficulties in sleeping because of various reasons, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly related to their disease. For one, with high blood sugar levels comes frequent urination. Patients get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and then go back to bed, only to repeat the process a few more times.

In addition, nerve problems related to diabetes can also disrupt sleeping patterns. Peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the nerves in the legs and feet, can cause numbness and a burning sensation, making sleeping very difficult and uncomfortable. Restless legs syndrome is also a common problem that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs (and sometimes the arms), which could be relieved by moving the affected parts, in turn, causing difficulties in falling or staying asleep.

Sleep apnea, which involves “skips” in breathing while asleep and could also be marked by snoring, is also a common problem among persons with diabetes. Visceral fat (fat deep in the body) deposits around the upper airway may obstruct breathing, causing these lapses. These pauses in breathing do not always cause the person to wake up completely; however, a brain analysis will show brain waves that are characteristic of wakefulness, which in turn equate to less actual sleep.

Diabetic complications can also be caused by lack of sleep – it has been found that people who get less sleep are more prone to diabetes or have more fluxes in blood sugar levels. Less sleep also heightens insulin resistance, and stress (which may or may not be caused by lack of sleep) blocks the body’s release of insulin.

Weeding out causes
Different individuals, whether they have diabetes or not, have different sleep requirements. The standard of 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night is not always followed, especially nowadays that people have become busier with jobs, other responsibilities and activities. These erratic, incomplete sleeping habits have an influence on a person’s overall health and mindset and have shown links to impeding normal bodily functions, including glucose control.

It is still unknown if diabetes itself causes sleep problems, although studies have shown that there is an association between lack of sleep, diabetes and obesity. People who lack sleep are more prone to being overweight or obese, therefore increasing risk for insulin resistance. Some studies also prove that sleep disturbances are more common in persons with diabetes, including insomnia.

However, there are still multiple factors to be considered – pre-existing conditions, heredity and genetics, and lifestyle and diet choices, for example – when linking diabetes to sleep disorders and other health problems. It is important to have regular check-ups to determine if you have a sleeping problem or experience symptoms of lack of sleep like excessive sleepiness during the day.

If you are not getting enough sleep, you will have a more difficult time losing weight, as well as controlling your blood sugar levels because sleep deprivation affects hormones that control the appetite and metabolize nutrients like carbohydrates. And since weight management is a vital part of curbing diabetes, it is very important that you get enough rest in order to make the most out of your healthy diet, exercise, and medication.

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