On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

The Link Between Diabetes and Sleeping Habits

When it comes to health, recommended sleep often gets pushed to the backburner. However, sleep has been shown to affect health (both positively and negatively), even linking to diabetes. Rest your way to balanced blood sugars by connecting the link between diabetes and sleeping habits!

The Link Between Diabetes and Sleeping Habits

What Is Diabetes?

Simply put, diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough or properly use insulin, a hormone that facilitates the entry of glucose within the cells. Without sufficient or efficient insulin, the glucose remains in the bloodstream, thus suggesting "high blood glucose" or "sugars." There are actually two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes
In type 1 diabetes, the body's own immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin, ultimately leaving insulin absent from the body and creating high blood sugars. Symptoms generally start during childhood and it cannot be prevented. Type 1 diabetes largely requires insulin therapy and needs to be monitored with close attention.

Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type among the U.S. population. Insulin utilization is not compromised related to destroyed cells, but because of too little insulin or insulin resistance. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle including weight loss and maintenance through a nutritious diet and exercise.

Symptoms of Diabetes

1. Increased Thirst
Also known as polydipsia, extreme thirst and excessive dryness of the mouth are common symptoms of diabetes.

2. Frequent Urination
With increased thirst and fluid consumption, comes more frequent trips to the bathroom!

3. Weight Loss
With glucose continuously remaining in the blood and excreted through urination, unabsorbed calories (or energy from the glucose) may lead to weight loss. Though this may seem desirable, this mode of weight loss can be quite damaging to the body.

4. Fatigue
Glucose is the body's primary energy fuel and when glucose is unable to enter the cells (as mentioned with weight loss), lack of energy or fatigue is a common consequence of diabetes.

5. Blurred Vision
High blood sugar levels can cause the lens of the eye to swell. Although typically temporary, the swelling may alter the ability to see and disrupt vision.

6. Darkened Skin
Also known as acanthosis nigricans, this condition causes a dark, velvety rash. These darkened areas are particular prominent around the neck and armpits regions.

Risk factors of diabetes include being overweight or obese, living a sedentary lifestyle, genetically born into family history of diabetes, being of a certain race (African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders are at an elevated risk), and with advancing age (particularly after 45 years old).

Diabetes and Sleep

The connection between diabetes and sleep is not well understood and multifaceted. Despite the sound link, research suggests too little or too much sleep can increase the risk of the chronic disease. When investigating the data, sleeping an average of five hours or less each night approximately doubled the risk compared to individuals receiving an adequate night's rest. So how could these phenomena occur? Though the exact mechanisms are unclear, health experts suggest:

• Inadequate sleep may spike blood sugar levels. When the body is tired, the natural idea is to feed it with energy from foods, commonly from carb-rich products. Loading up on carbohydrates and sweets can ultimately increase blood sugar levels which may ultimately plummet quickly, leaving you feeling fatigued once again. The best tip to staying energized and keeping blood sugars stable is consuming balanced meals or snacks throughout the day rather than one or two large meals.

• When sleep is lacking, the body's response is similar to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, commonly noticed in type 2 diabetes, is a condition in which the body does not effectively respond to the insulin it produces, ultimately keeping glucose in the blood and resulting to high blood sugars.

• Research has shown lack of sleep can create weight gain. When tired, there is an increased want towards more calorically-dense foods, often filled with sugar and fat. And with energy compromised, taking a trip to the gym is unlikely to occur. The consequences of sleep, either individually or combined, are great influences of weight gain and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Combatting the link between diabetes and sleep may be a tough feat in a busy society, especially with demanding schedules. However, it is extremely valuable to reprioritize and place health as a top urgency. On average, adults should obtain seven and a half to nine hours of adequate sleep each night!