Whenever diabetes patients enter Lynn Maarouf’s office with out-of-control
blood sugar levels, she immediately asks them how they are sleeping at night.
All too often, the answer is the same: not well.
“Any time your blood sugar is really high, your kidneys try to get rid of it
by urinating,” says Maarouf, RD, the diabetes education director of the Stark
Diabetes Center at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “So you
are probably getting up and going to bathroom all night long -- and not
Anna and her husband go to bed at the same time. That’s the only part of their sleep routine that they have in common.
"We have very distinct sleep patterns and sleep issues," says Anna, 42, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy. “My husband tends to fall asleep easily but he wakes up incredibly early. I have trouble falling asleep."
The couple, who teach at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, have learned various coping strategies so that they can both get enough sleep...
Diabetes and sleep problems often go hand in hand. Diabetes can cause sleep
loss, and there’s evidence that not sleeping well can increase your risk of
Low Sleep, High Blood Sugar
Maarouf says high blood sugar is a red flag for sleep problems among people
with diabetes for another reason. “People who are tired will eat more because
they want to get energy from somewhere,” she says. “That can mean consuming
sugar or other foods that can spike blood sugar levels.”
“I really push people to eat properly throughout the day and get their blood
sugars under control so they sleep better at night,” Maarouf says. “If you get
your blood sugar under control, you will get a good night sleep and wake up
feeling fabulous with lots of energy.”
The Connection Between Lack of Sleep and Diabetes
“There is some evidence that sleep deprivation could lead to pre-diabetic
state,” says Mark Mahowald, MD, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep
Disorders Center in Hennepin County.
According to Mahowald, the body's reaction to sleep loss can resemble
insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Insulin’s job is to help the body
use glucose for energy. In insulin resistance, cells fail to use the hormone
efficiently, resulting in high blood sugar.
Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells
do not properly use the insulin. When insulin is not doing its job, high blood
sugar levels build in the body to the point where they can harm the eyes,
kidneys, nerves, or heart.