Sleep is underrated. Many people brag about how little they get and how much they got done. Those who do value it often don’t feel like it’s possible to get enough sleep despite their best efforts. Whether it’s work, kids, travel, etc., something is always getting in the way. Are sleep and blood sugar connected in some way? And if so, how? Let’s answer these questions below…
Let’s first talk statistics. 62% of adults report not sleeping as much as they’d like. The average person sleeps less than 7 hours per night. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers have found an increase in sleep disorders. 2 out of 3 Americans complain of sleeping more or less than desired. That’s most of us!
Sleep and weight loss
Over the past 30 years, the amount of hours we sleep has decreased. At the same time, there’s been an increase in levels of obesity and glucose (sugar) metabolism. According to research, partial sleep deprivation is associated with changes in the hormones that regulate appetite. Changes in these hormones suggests that an increase in your appetite likely leads to increased eating and weight gain. Sleep and weight loss are closely linked. There are other connections between sleep and health as well.
High blood sugar and sleep
Your blood sugar levels rise at night. This is true whether or not you sleep. In fact, blood sugar levels surge during sleep. They peak between 4am – 8am or so for those with normal sleep schedules. For most healthy people, this isn’t a concern. Insulin can handle this spike by communicating with muscle, fat, and liver cells, which are told to absorb glucose from blood, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels. These fluctuations don’t normally cause any problems. Even a little bit of sleep loss from a single night increases insulin resistance. Regular instances of high blood sugar during sleep can eventually lead to diabetes, as they are also associated with one another.
Diabetes and sleep
Even if you’re already diabetic, there are still plenty of good reasons to get a good night’s sleep. Getting less than 7 hours per night can result in: increased insulin resistance, an increase in your hunger (that makes you feel less full after eating the next day), being more likely to go for junk foods high in sugar and carbs, making weight loss a lot harder, a rise in your blood pressure (which greatly increases your risk of having a heart attack), a compromised immune system that makes it harder to fight infections, and an increased risk for anxiety and depression. That’s quite a list of motivators to get a good night’s sleep! But how exactly do you do that? Let’s dive into that next…
You may have heard the phrase: sleep hygiene. It does mean “cleaning up” your sleep habits, so to speak. Having good sleep hygiene means that you sleep in an environment and maintain daily routines that contribute to consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Simple right? Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are many factors that contribute to having good sleep hygiene. Let’s get into the major ones so you can work on improving your sleep.
It’s important to have a safe, comfortable environment where you sleep. Whether that’s your bedroom, a hotel room or a friend’s house, do whatever you can do to make it the most comfortable. This includes ensuring that it’s quiet. If you’re in a loud area, then sleep may be hard to come by. You can try wearing earplugs. As a side sleeper, that doesn’t work well for me.
You may consider using a noise machine that produces white noise. This refers to noise that contains all frequencies that are equally balanced. It sounds a lot like static that comes from an old TV, or radio. You can also easily find an app that generates white noise. Fans or air conditioners produce white noise and can help you kill 2 birds with 1 stone on warmer nights. The key to the noise is that it’s consistent so that you almost don’t notice it. For these reasons, listening to music or keeping the TV on aren’t ideal. Even if they help you fall asleep, they are also likely to negatively affect your sleep hygiene.
Think of the place you sleep as your cave. You want it to be as dark as possible. When it gets dark, a hormone called melatonin gets secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It serves as a timer for our biological clocks. Melatonin widens the blood vessels in the hands and feet. This helps the body to get rid of heat faster so that you can nod off.
It makes sense that even things like nightlights can affect your sleep. Definitely use one if you need it to find your way to the bathroom, or if you have young children who rely on one. You may need to get blackout curtains and make sure that light isn’t leaking in anywhere. In short, the darker it is, the better you’ll tend to sleep. This is why it isn’t good to fall asleep with the TV on.
A cool temperature is best for sleep. Ideal sleep temperature is about 60 – 67°F (15 – 19°C). Given the increase in heatwaves throughout the world, sleep is being affected more and more. We become restless, toss and turn, only to wake up feeling groggy the next morning when it’s too hot for sleep. This is more likely to occur when the ambient temperature doesn’t drop down below 68°F (20°C) at night. The connection between sleep and our regulation of temperature is a very intimate one.
At night, blue light can mess up your body’s circadian rhythm, negatively impacting your sleep. The reason blue light does this is because these wavelengths of light increase attention, reaction times, and mood. That’s perfect during the day, but not so at night. Blue light can also lead to diseases like: cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity!
Turning off and/or removing electronic devices before sleeping can be helpful to minimize blue light exposure. This includes TV, computers, smart phones, etc. These devices are too easy to access and can keep us up past our bedtimes. If you do use an electronic device at night, I recommend using a blue light blocking app. Many phones and computers now come with such apps pre-installed. If you’ve ever wondered why your screen is redder after sunset, then this is why. When someone without a blue light blocker shows me something on their phone after dark, it’s jarring to my eyes!
Apps are made to be addicting. Check out The Social Dilemma on Netflix if you’d like to see the lengths that companies goto to keep you coming back. Beyond the urges to play with your phone, even extremely low frequency electro-magnetic fields that are emitted from such devices negatively impact sleep quality. Since I use my phone as an alarm clock, I keep it in airplane mode and as far from my body as I can. It’s ideal to turn off your phone completely, but that’s not always practical for everyone.
Wake up call
As you can see, getting a good night’s sleep is important for many reasons. The links between high blood sugar and sleep (as well as diabetes and sleep) are definitely worth taking seriously to avoid health issues.
How is your sleep hygiene? Please tell us in the comments…