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Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep

People who have diabetes often have poor sleep habits, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Some people with diabetes get too much sleep, while others have problems getting enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 63% of American adults do not get enough sleep needed for good health, safety, and optimum performance.

There are several causes of sleep problems for people with type 2 diabetes, including obstructive sleep apnea, pain or discomfort, restless legs syndrome, the need to go to the bathroom, and other problems associated with type 2 diabetes.

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Sleep Problems and Type 2 Diabetes

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea involves pauses in breathing during sleep. The periods of stopped breathing are called apneas, which are caused by an obstruction of the upper airway. Apneas may be interrupted by a brief arousal that does not awaken you completely -- you often do not even realize that your sleep was disturbed. Yet if your sleep was measured in a sleep laboratory, technicians would record changes in the brain waves that are characteristic of awakening.

Sleep apnea results in low oxygen levels in the blood because the blockages prevent air from getting to the lungs. The low oxygen levels also affect brain and heart function. Up to two-thirds of the people who have sleep apnea are overweight.

Sleep apnea alters our sleep cycle and stages of sleep. Some studies have linked altered sleep stages with a decrease in growth hormone, which plays a key role in body composition such as body fat, muscle, and abdominal fat. Researchers have found a possible link between sleep apnea and the development of diabetes and insulin resistance (the inability of the body to use insulin).

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the nerves in the feet and legs, is another cause of sleep disruption. This nerve damage can cause a loss of feeling in the feet or symptoms such as tingling, numbness, burning, and pain.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a specific sleep disorder that causes an intense, often irresistible urge to move your legs. This sleep disorder is often accompanied by other sensations in the legs such as tingling, pulling, or pain, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia

Both hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can affect sleep in those with diabetes. Hypoglycemia may occur when you have not eaten for many hours, such as overnight, or if you take too much insulin or other medications. Hyperglycemia occurs when the sugar level rises above normal. This may happen after eating too many calories, missing medication, or having an illness. Emotional stress can also cause your blood sugar to rise.

Obesity

Obesity, or too much body fat, is often associated with snoring, sleep apnea, and sleep disturbance. Obesity increases the risk of sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, and stroke.

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