The Sleep and Diabetes Relationship

Sleep disturbances are common among individuals with diabetes.  People with diabetes report significantly higher rates of excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, and unpleasant sensations in the legs than non-diabetics.

Sleep plays an important part in many of the body’s regulatory systems.  Research has shown that less than seven hours of sleep per night increases your risk for type 2 diabetes.  Impaired sleep has been linked to conditions from high blood pressure to heart disease, to depression.  Insufficient sleep can affect one’s appetite, energy level, and weight control.  It can also greatly affect hormone production and the body’s digestive and metabolic systems.

The sleep/health relationship is bi-directional.  The cause of a health problem can result in sleep issues, and the sleep issues may create health problems.  For example, pre-existing health conditions may lead to poor sleep:


  • Being overweight increases the risk for obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes one to have pauses in breathing at night.  
  • Difficult to control blood glucose levels may be due to poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation.
  • Chronic pain or peripheral neuropathy can cause one to have discomfort at bedtime.

Having an underlying sleep disorder can negatively affect your health quality:

  • Having obstructive sleep apnea has been shown to lead to weight gain, and increase the risk of diabetes by 2½ times.
  • Loss of sleep interrupts insulin balance.  This can lead to insulin resistance and higher glucose levels.
  • Restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movements can affect one’s ability to fall asleep and lead to insomnia.

Treating your sleep problem can have numerous health benefits, including decreased hunger, improved mood and energy level, and better long-term management of diabetes.  Addressing these can help prevent future health complications and enhance one’s daily quality of life and life expectancy.

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