In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our July/August 2012 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, about the link between diabetes and poor sleep.
Q: I have diabetes, and I'm not sleeping well. Are the two related, and what can I do?
Just a few years ago, it was rare to hear about a child with type 2 diabetes. It used to be thought that if diabetes occurred in childhood, it was type 1, or juvenile-onset, diabetes. Not anymore. Now, according to the CDC, more than 186,000 people younger than age 20 have diabetes -- both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes. How can you prevent this threat to your child's health? What can you do if your child is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?
A: Yes, people with diabetes often have reduced sleep quality and quantity. Sleep apnea, medications, lack of exercise, and abnormal glucose and hormone levels -- all of which are common in people with diabetes -- can disrupt rest. So can nerve pain and frequent nighttime urination (called nocturia), which cause people with diabetes to wake up more often and have trouble falling back to sleep.
Restoring good sleep can be challenging. But many of the steps you take to manage your condition will also help you sleep more soundly and longer. A healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep habits (such as going to bed at a reasonable hour and relaxing in a long bath before bedtime) can make a real difference in both your diabetes and your sleep.
More specifically, you can reduce how often you urinate at night by drinking fewer liquids before bedtime and by elevating your legs for several hours in the evening. This prevents any fluid retained in the lower legs from being reabsorbed into the body, resulting in more urine. If you have sleep apnea, work with your doctor on treatment. Finally, ask your doctor to adjust your medications (or add new ones) to help you sleep better.
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Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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