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Type 2 diabetes and sleep

Lack of sleep can increase your risk of getting type 2 diabetes or cause more problems if you already have it.  Find out why and how to sleep longer.

Experts believe there’s a link between lack of sleep and the risk of getting type 2 diabetes. 

Broken sleep could raise blood glucose levels

If we feel tired, the hormone that controls our blood sugar doesn’t work as well while our stress hormones may rise, which makes it harder for insulin to work well. This may cause too much glucose in our bloodstream, which can lead to type 2 diabetes complications.

The cycle of broken sleep can make life difficult. Tiredness from sleepless nights often means we reach for sugary snacks and carbs the next day which makes our blood sugars go up more.

Common sleep problems for type 2 diabetes

High blood sugar levels can make it difficult to sleep as you may feel too warm or just can’t settle. You may need to go to the toilet more to pass urine, too.

Keeping your blood glucose under control should help with this kind of sleep problem. You can do this by following a healthy diet and lifestyle and taking your medication at the correct time.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and diabetes

OSA is when you have problems breathing while asleep. It can be common in people aged 35-54 who are overweight.

If you feel tired during the day or snore lots at night, speak to your GP or healthcare team. OSA can be easily treated by wearing a breathing device at night that puts oxygen into your airways to keep you breathing regularly.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS)

Do you have crawling, tingling or painful sensations in the legs, but only while you are resting? You may have RLS, which is also common in people with type 2 diabetes.

RLS can be caused by high blood glucose levels, thyroid disorders, and kidney problems – but smoking, too much caffeine or an iron deficiency are also causes. Regular exercise, massages, using a cold cloth on the area can help, or you may need extra iron.

But check with your GP or healthcare team first before taking or doing anything, as you need to get a diagnosis first.

If the urge to move your legs doesn’t go away with activity, or if there is constant nerve pain or tingling as well, you might have a neuropathy (nerve pain) issue.

Top tips for good sleep

Following a healthy diet and moving more can help you control your blood sugars, which can make it easier for you to nod off at night.

And a bedtime routine really helps everyone, so get into the habit of doing certain things every night if you can. For instance:

  • Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time because if you mess around with your biological clock, your body won’t know whether to sleep or not.
  • Avoid napping during the day if you can, as this can stop you sleeping at night.
  • No caffeine, smoking or working too close to bedtime, as these are all stimulants that tell your body to wake up.
  • Stop staring at your computer at least an hour before bed because our eyes read the blue light from phones, tablets and laptops as sunlight.
  • Wind down with a book or music.
  • Keep your sleeping area at a good temperature and make sure the room is dark enough.
  • If you have pets, they're best kept out of the bedroom at night, to avoid disturbing your sleep.
  • Check out the new Sleepio tool below it may help you improve your sleep

Visit the North West London Sleepio tool