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Diabetes and Sleep Deprivation: How to Get a Good Night's Sleep

Written by:
Cazzy Magennis
Last updated:
December 9, 2018
Diabetes & struggling to sleep is a real reality for lots of us. This post gives you tips to help you get some more sleep (better quality sleep too!)
Sleep deprivation and type 1 diabetes
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Having type 1 diabetes means you constantly have to be aware. Typically, most diabetes are conscious of what they’re eating, counting carbohydrates, when you need to eat and where they will get that next meal from.

You need to be organised, to plan ahead. And to recognise any triggers that could lead you into distress. Whether you’re at home or on the road, your diabetes doesn’t take a break; meaning you can’t afford to slack off, either.

It can be exhausting.

In fact, it’s enough to make you want to go to sleep on the spot. But the tricksy thing is, your blood sugar levels might have other ideas. Try as you might to get the sleep your body and mind craves, you feel wide awake when it’s time to settle down. Even if it’s not blood sugars keeping you up, it might be thoughts and regrets of the day just gone, or worries and plans about the day to come.

It happens to the best of us.

In fact, a whopping 30% of US adults reported suffering from insomnia at one stage in their lives. This sleep deprivation can have all kinds of consequences on our physical and mental health. Mentally, it can lead to anxiety and depression while physically, the range of conditions linked to sleep deprivation.

I’m not saying that sleep deprivation caused your diabetes.

Or that you can be suddenly cured by getting a decent kip. But if you don’t have diabetes and are in a habit of only sleeping for 3 hours a night, well…it’s food for thought. If you do have diabetes, you should be doing everything you can to look after your health.

sleeping in the jungle

Start with sleeping properly

When you feel well-rested, you’ll be more capable of making smart decisions around food and your general lifestyle. You won’t be tempted to eat sugary snacks for energy, even though you know they could mess up those blood sugars (unless it’s a hypo, of course!) Your energy levels will improve with enough, good-quality sleep on a regular basis, too. You may even feel like a new person. Who knew that snoozy time could be such a powerful thing?!

Now that you know how important sleep is, here’s how to get some:

1. Get into an evening routine

Just like you’re mindful of your eating times, you should get some sort of schedule going for your sleepy time, too. Because if you’re going to bed at 9pm one night, then midnight the next, then 10.30pm the night after that…frankly your body and mind won’t have a clue what’s going on! You’ll find it harder and harder to get to sleep when you want to, and it’s no wonder why.

So for the next week, set yourself a bedtime… and stick to it. Set it early enough so that you still get your recommended 7–9 hours and complete the same steps leading up to it every night so your body starts to recognise that sleep isn’t far away. Have a long bath, write in your journal, do a guided meditation...simple things that wind your body and mind down for a great night’s sleep.

2. Leave the screens off

If watching a movie in bed or updating your Insta account is part of your evening routine, it shouldn’t be. Partly because the screens on these electronic devices emit blue light, which blocks the body’s production of serotonin (the hormone that makes us feel relaxed). And partly because these activities stimulate our minds, instead of shutting them down.

So even if texting your sweetheart until the wee hours seems like a good idea, it’s not. Say goodnight, switch the phone off and you’ll be a much sunnier person for your hot date the next day!

3. Do your research

You’ve probably read up on the best ways to manage diabetes, so why not do the same for sleep? The SleepAdvisor.org is a nice resource that can help you get a better sleep, even if it seems like an elusive thing right now. Whether you end up changing your sleeping position, or your mattress, or your partner (!!), the advice you need could be just a few clicks away.

sleeping by the mountain

Sleep deprivation and travelling with type 1 diabetes

When you are travelling full-time or even just travelling for a couple of weeks, it’s tiring. Like really tiring. Being tired can also wreak havoc on your blood sugars. If you are feeling extremely tired all the time, it can encourage your insulin to be less effective because your body and brain just aren’t functioning. You may find you need more insulin than usual and you crash. Therefore, it’s important that you get as much sleep as you can, that’s realistic for you and your body. I need a minimum of seven hours, or else I feel like my blood sugars are harder to control.

Time zones can mess with your sleep pattern, but if you are switching to a new time zone via airplane travel, sleep only when the locals would sleep. So if you arrive during the day, but it’s nighttime at home, you need to push through and wait until night time. It honestly helps soooo much. I do this is every time zone I switch and I don’t suffer from jet lag!

Trust me, it works!

So here’s to getting a better sleep.

For the week you try out your new evening routine, and for every night thereafter.

Start being the more rested, more motivated and healthier person you’re capable of being… and have sweeter dreams as a result!

This post is a guest post in partnership with The Sleep Advisor.

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