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Counting Sheep May Be Bad for Your Diabetes

Tossing and turning night after night can give you more than a bad case of bedhead. Not getting enough sleep could make it harder to control your diabetes.

One study in the journal Diabetes Care found people with type-2 diabetes and insomnia also had:

• 23 percent higher fasting glucose levels
• 48 percent higher fasting insulin levels

These differences were large enough to have doctors concerned. They could leave people with insomnia at risk for diabetes complications, including nerve damage, vision problems, and kidney disease.

The Sleep-Health Connection

Sleep is more than a break from our daily activities. While you slumber, your body and brain carry out tasks essential for physical and mental health. Doctors think insomnia also causes your body to release stress hormones. When you’re under pressure, your body releases glucose into the blood to give you energy.

About one-third of adults with type-1 diabetes and more than half with type 2 diabetes regularly have difficulty sleeping. Getting less than eight hours of sleep has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Get a Good Night’s Rest

Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep for good health. Try these tips to drift off to dreamland:

Exercise. Regular workouts—in this case, walking with poles—improved sleep in one group of study participants with type 2 diabetes. But stop sweating within three hours of bedtime to give your heart rate a chance to decrease.

Follow a regular schedule. Go to sleep and get up at about the same time, even on the weekends.

Avoid food and drinks with caffeine, such as coffee and chocolate, late in the day.

Don’t read or watch TV in bed. Use your bedroom only for sleeping.

Talk with your doctor if you regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep, you feel very sleepy during the day, or you snore loudly. You may have a sleep disorder that needs treatment. Counseling, medications, or breathing devices may help.

Keep in mind that as a wellness+ for diabetes member, you have 24/7 access to a diabetes specialist online or over the phone at 1-800-RITEAID.



“ABCs of ZZZZs—When You Can’t Sleep.”National Sleep .

“At-a-Glance: Healthy Sleep.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

“Disturbed Subjective Sleep Characteristics in Adult Patients with Long-Standing Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus.” M. van Dijk et al. Diabetologia.

“Get Enough Sleep.” National Health Information Center.

“A Good Night’s Sleep.” National Institute on Aging.

“What Is Insomnia.” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

“Sleep and Sleep Disorders.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Sleep Quality and Quality of Life in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes.” F.S. Luyster and J. Dunbar-Jacob. The Diabetes Educator. Vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 347–55.

“Stress.” American Diabetes Association.