The Sleep-Diabetes Connection
Not sleeping? Check your blood sugar levels.
The Link Between Lack of Sleep and Weight
Some studies show that people who get less sleep tend to be heavier than
those who sleep well, Mahowald says. Being overweight or obese is a risk
factor for the development of diabetes.
There is also a link between diabetes and sleep apnea, a sleep disorder
marked by loud snoring and pauses in breathing while you sleep. The culprit may
be excess weight, which can cause fat deposits around the upper airway that
obstruct breathing. So being overweight or obese is a risk factor for sleep
apnea as well as diabetes.
“If you have diabetes, are overweight, and snore, tell your doctor,” says
Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake
Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. “You may need
a sleep study.”
Sleep apnea can prevent a person from getting a good night sleep, which can
worsen diabetes or perhaps increase the risk of developing diabetes. In sleep
studies, you are monitored while you sleep for sleep disorders such sleep
There are many effective treatments for sleep apnea. These include lifestyle
changes such as weight loss for mild cases and devices to open up blocked
airways for more significant cases.
Sleep Is as Important as What You Eat
“In general, people with diabetes have to be very careful about sleep
because anything that throws off their routine can make them feel a lack of
energy and fatigue,” says Zafarlotfi. “The more fatigued they feel, the more
their motor is running, and the more likely they are to develop insulin
“Proper sleep is as important as diet for people with diabetes,” she
Determining How Much Sleep You Need
“There is no formula for how much sleep you need,” Zafarlotfi says.
“It depends on you.”
Mahowald agrees. “On average, we need 7.5 hours per night, but your sleep
requirement is genetically determined and varies,” he says. “It can be about
four hours on the short end to 10 or 11 on the long end.”
Want to know if you are sleep-deprived? The answer is simple, Mahowald says:
“If you use an alarm clock, you are. If you were getting adequate sleep, your
brain would awaken you before the alarm goes off.”