There is a close association between diabetes and poor sleep. Excessive urination, a common symptom of poor glucose control, disrupts sleep in the night. Moreover, diabetes-related complications such as nocturnal hypoglycemia, sleep apnea and restless leg symptom may also cause troubled sleep.
Sleep deprivation worsens insulin resistance, thereby aggravating the symptoms of diabetes. Hence, getting a good night’s sleep is essential for preventing diabetes-related complications.
How Diabetes Affects Sleep
Hyperglycemia or elevated sugar level in the blood is a common cause of poor sleep. To reduce the sugar load in the blood, your kidneys overwork even during the night. Frequent urge to urinate disrupts sleep. Moreover, you will feel too warm when the sugar level rises in the blood. Hyperglycemia also causes irritation and discomfort, preventing you from enjoying sound sleep.
Nocturnal hypoglycemia usually affects diabetics on insulin therapy. Sleep disturbance, difficulty in waking up in the morning, waking up with headache, sweating and feeling tired throughout the day are common symptoms of nocturnal hypoglycemia.
Sleep apnea obstructs breathing while sleeping. It is a common problem in diabetics who are overweight. Sleep apnea not only interrupts sleep but by disrupting the metabolism process of the body, it aggravates the symptoms of diabetes.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Diabetics often experience a strong urge to move their legs, a condition known as restless legs syndrome. This sleep disorder is a common cause of poor sleep. People suffering from restless legs syndrome may also experience pain and tingling in the legs.
Untreated diabetes damages the peripheral nerves, leading to numbness, pain and tingling in the feet and legs. The discomfort in the legs prevents diabetics from getting a good night’s sleep.
How Diabetics can get a Good Night’s Sleep
Reduce Blood Sugar Level
Maintaining the blood sugar level close to the normal range is the first step in ensuring a good night’s sleep.
A healthy diet, regular physical activities and taking diabetes medications according to your physician’s directions will help to prevent hyperglycemia. Frequently check your blood sugar level and seek the advice of your doctor if you notice abnormal changes in the sugar level.
To prevent hypoglycemia in the night, diabetics on insulin therapy should take an extra snack before going to bed. Evenly space your meals throughout the day by dividing the three large meals into four to six smaller meals. Avoid alcohol.
The risk of developing sleep apnea is higher in overweight or obese diabetics. Shedding the excess flab provides relief from sleep apnea. Moreover, maintaining a healthy body weight is essential for improving sensitivity to insulin.
Apart from your diabetes medications, you may need additional drugs for treating specific sleep disorders. Pain relief drugs are often recommended for alleviating leg pain that occurs due to peripheral neuropathy and restless legs syndrome.
You may even apply a topical numbing agent to reduce leg pain. Anticonvulsant drugs and antidepressants are also prescribed by doctors to prevent sleep problems triggered by nerve disorders caused by diabetes.
You can get good sleep only when your mind is calm and relaxed. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises to improve sleep.