Are poor sleep habits increasing your risk of diabetes? Find out what the experts say
The link between diabetes and sleep may be far greater than most people realize. On the average, most people need around 7.5 hours of sleep a night in order to function at their best. When we sleep, our bodies release hormones that perform essential functions related to glucose processing, appetite control, and energy metabolism. Getting only a few hours of sleep or interrupted sleep can disrupt the production of these hormones, causing our bodies to release too much or too little. As a result, poor sleep can lead to unintended weight gain and slower processing of glucose, significantly increasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The relationship between blood sugar and sleep problems
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, research has shown that blood sugar and sleep problems are linked in several ways. High blood sugar can create sleep disturbances. When your blood sugar is extremely high, your kidneys purge the excess sugar through urination. As a result, your sleep could be interrupted multiple times during the night by the need to go to the bathroom. Interrupted sleep contributes to sleep deprivation.
How poor sleep can raise diabetes risk
Several studies have shown that adults who regularly get less than five hours of sleep have a greatly increased risk of having or developing Type 2 diabetes. The correlation between lack of sleep and blood sugar levels that are higher than normal is clear. When you don’t get enough sleep, it affects the way your body processes glucose, creating a condition that resembles insulin resistance. Insulin helps your body to process glucose and turn it into energy. When cells are unable to use insulin efficiently because of lack of sleep, your body processes glucose noticeably slower. High blood sugar levels can develop and cause damage to your eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart.
How poor sleep and weight gain are linked
Lack of sufficient sleep has been identified as a potential risk factor for obesity, further cementing the link between diabetes and sleep. Researchers found that people who regularly get less than six hours of sleep a night tend to have a higher than average BMI (body mass index). Individuals who sleep eight hours typically have the lowest BMI. Poor sleep results in an increased production of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone” associated with weight gain. Insufficient sleep is also linked to higher levels of ghrelin, a biochemical that stimulates appetite, and lower levels of leptin, a hormone that signals the brain when your body has enough food. This can lead to increased eating, particularly of sugary sweets that give a temporary energy boost people seek when they don’t have enough sleep. Obesity is one of the top risk factors for diabetes.
Impaired glucose control and the excess weight that develops from sleep loss are risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes multiple awakenings due to breathing difficulties, disturbing rest and compounding the difficulties associated with lack of sleep. This is yet another link between diabetes and sleep.
Because diabetes and sleep deprivation are so closely linked, you should always mention to your doctor if you are suffering from interrupted sleep or regularly get less than five hours of sleep. Health professionals can perform simple tests to determine if you are pre-diabetic or at risk of developing diabetes.
If you are concerned about your diabetes risk, www.BetterHealthKare.com has low-carb recipes, exercise tips, and more healthy living advice that can help with managing or preventing diabetes.