Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Got Type 2 Diabetes? Get Better Sleep

Poor Sleep, Poor Blood Sugar Control May Go Together, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 18, 2006 -- If you've got type 2 diabetes, poor sleep may mean worse blood sugar control, a study shows.

The study included 161 blacks with type 2 diabetes. Those who reported getting too little sleep or poor-quality sleep tended to have worse blood sugar control than their well-rested peers.

The study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers included Kristen Knutson, PhD, of the University of Chicago's medicine department.

Knutson commented on the findings in a University of Chicago Medical Center News release.

"Although we can't be certain whether sleep loss makes diabetes worse or the diabetes interferes with sleep, it only makes sense for everyone, but especially patients with diabetes, to give themselves the opportunity to get enough sleep," Knutson says.

Sleep and Blood Sugar

Previous studies have shown that people without diabetes may be more likely to get diabetes or have problems controlling their blood sugar if they get insufficient or poor-quality sleep.

Knutson's team studied sleep and blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, which is the most common type of diabetes.

Participants answered questions about their weeknight sleep habits.

They reported how much sleep they got and how much sleep they thought they needed. They also rated the quality of their sleep.

The researchers also checked participants' hemoglobin A1c levels, which show how well blood sugar has been controlled for the previous three months.

Poor Sleep Common

Average weeknight sleep reported was six hours; that's on the skimpy side.

"Only 6% of patients reported obtaining at least eight hours of sleep on weeknights and only 22% obtained at least seven hours," the researchers write.

Sleep quality generally wasn't good, either. About seven in 10 participants were classified as having poor-quality sleep.

Hemoglobin A1c levels were worse in participants who said they got too little sleep and other participants who reported poor-quality sleep.

Those results held after screening out 39 people who said pain frequently disturbed their sleep.

DepressionDepression, which can skew sleep habits, didn't affect the results, based on depression questionnaires that the patients completed.

Sleep Debt, Sleep Quality

The researchers split patients into those with and without diabetes complications.

Among those without diabetes complications, hemoglobin A1c levels were tied to "sleep debt," the shortfall between how much they slept and how much sleep they thought they needed.

But in patients with diabetes complications, sleep quality was more strongly tied to hemoglobin A1c levels than reported sleep debt.

The bottom line: The amount of sleep and the quality of sleep both mattered, with some differences in patients with and without diabetes complications.

Future studies should test whether improving sleep length and quality improves blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, write Knutson and colleagues.

They note that sleep loss has become increasingly common in modern society "and it cannot be excluded that this behavior has contributed to the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes."

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


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.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
Woman serving fast food from window
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
are battery operated toothbrushes really better

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture