Is Sleep Important To Our Health?

Before the 1900s Americans averaged nearly 9 hours/night and were mostly involved in daily physically labor. With the invention of the electric light, the industrial revolution and resulting urbanization, Americans became less active and averaged 8 hours of sleep/night. Today, Americans average less than 7 hours of sleep/night and get very little activity.

Sometime ago, for about a week my sleep was very restless and I had a hard time falling asleep. I had a lot on my mind and just couldn’t quit thinking to fall asleep. It started on a Thursday. That night I probably slept a total of 4 hours. Friday thru Sunday I did better averaging probably about 6 hours and then Monday night, I got home from work at 10:30 PM and went straight to bed, but I did not fall asleep until after four in the morning, when my husband crawled into bed.

He had not had much sleep since Saturday night. Sunday night he and his friend had driven all night to participant in a tractor pull. They attended the pull and finished their last pull around 11 PM Monday night, loaded up and headed home. I did not like him on the road without sufficient sleep. So between the things on my mind and my sleepy husband on the road, sleep evaded me.

Tuesday morning I forced myself out of bed after approximately 2-3 hours of fitful sleep and got ready for my first appointment at 8 AM.

How well do you think I functioned that day?

Do you have sleepless or restless nights?

How does sleep affected our health? Diabetes? Weight Control? Chronic disease?

Come Join us to learn the rest of the story and how we can improve our sleep and our health!


Sleep is Just As Important As Exercise!

Sleep is just as important as exercise and diet when it comes to decreasing the risk of developing diabetes or treating diabetes and managing weight.


Individuals who sleep six hours or less are twice as likely to develop diabetes in their lifetime as those who snooze 7-8 1/2 hours. If you are not getting enough sleep, even if you are slim and trim, you are seriously compromising your health. Just 3 consecutive nights of inadequate sleep can elevate a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes to roughly the same equivalent as gaining 20-30 pounds, according to a 2007 study at the University of Chicago.

What can result from sleep deprivation?

  • Reduced metabolism rate
  • Altered sympathetic nervous system (stress control center) and hormone levels (insulin, growth hormones, appetite hormones, melatonin, etc.)
  • Fatigue further stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, decreasing the proper regulation of glucose in the blood.
  • Trouble staying awake when you sit down
  • Problems concentrating
  • Grouchy or mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Lowered immune system
  • Depression
  • Poor healing or recovery from illness or injury
  • Decreased motivation to exercise or engage in healthy behaviors (just surviving the day)
  • Insulin resistance
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Increased risk of overweight or obesity
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Physical and psychological discomfort
  • Decreased quality of life

Type 2 Diabetes is the result of insulin resistance; insulin is no longer able to properly carry the blood glucose from the blood into the cells. When you do not get enough sleep your body requires more insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. And a vicious cycle of insulin resistance begins; More insulin is produced, and the cells increase their resistance to insulin, so even more insulin is produced in an attempt to lower glucose levels, but the cells become more insulin resistant until blood glucose levels rise high enough to alert the doctor…Insulin Resistance is the root cause of type 2 diabetes, in most cases.

One thing that greatly increases the likelihood of insulin resistance is being overweight. But a lack of sleep only further compounds the insulin resistance. When you are tired your body produces more of the hormone (ghrelin) that stimulates appetite and less of the hormone (leptin) that turns the appetite off. Your body compensates for your tiredness by stimulating you to eat to increase energy…but you are tired, you do not have energy to fix a healthful meal, you need easy access calories, a quick energy boost, which usually turns out to be high calorie, high carbohydrate foods. The less you sleep the more likely you are to overeat to compensate for the lack of energy, and the average intake is a whopping 45% additional calories per day.

Some individuals will increase their caffeine intake to compensate for the lack of sleep. Caffeine totally interferes with proper sleep even when that cup of coffee or energy drink was 18 hours before you go to bed, because caffeine interferes with the optimal functioning of melatonin (a hormone that helps you relax and fall asleep).

We are a busy, “get ‘er done” society. We do not have time to sleep. What is the solution? Just as we plan appointments throughout our day, we must plan our sleep. And do it religiously, setting aside 8 hours for sleeping; Blocking that time off your calendar and allowing nothing to interfere with it.

How much sleep we need will vary among individuals and our sleep needs change as we age. The National Sleep Foundation suggest that school-age children need 10-11 hours of sleep daily, teens 8.5-9.5 hours and for most adults a minimum of seven but less than nine hours sleep is optimal. Shorter or longer sleep durations were associated with higher HbA1c levels (the average blood glucose level over the past 2-3 months) and higher rate of depression and disease complications.

What about napping? To keep naps from interfering with night sleep, limit adult nap time to no more than 30-40 minutes and at least 6 hours before bedtime.

Check out my post Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep


My wish for you is to sleep well, eat healthfully, and to keep on exercising. You can Start A New YOU! And you can have Abundant Health!

Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Having Trouble Sleeping?
Here are some recommendations for a good night’s sleep:


  • Follow a healthy diet with lots of fiber and high water content foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes) to aid in weight loss and make it easier for the body to relax.
  • Eat your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime and keep it low in protein (protein is stimulating, preparing us for work, not sleeping). (See You Need to Properly Digest before you Rest blog for more information).
  • Avoid dairy and high fat foods to reduce restless leg syndrome.
  • Skip the caffeine and alcohol.
  • Stay hydrated. Divide your weight in half (in pounds) and drink that amount of ounces of water/day and more with exercise.
  • Exercise dailyin direct sunshine preferably in the AM or at the latest a couple hours before bed or join an exercise group or go with a partner to a health club during daylight hours.
  • Spend time in nature, this helps clear the mind and is relaxing.
  • Associate yourself with others who want to achieve the same goal of good health as you do.
  • Take the STOP-Apnea Test and get tested for sleep apnea, if needed.
  • Avoid burning “the midnight oil” (our natural circadian rhythm for sleep is 9 PM-5AM).
  • Create a mindset and environment that helps you get adequate rest.Think of the night as the beginning of the day. We start with sleep. (It is interesting to note that this is how GOD created our days, evening and then the morning. See Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).
  • During your designated sleep hours create a disruption-free environment: Maybe it is time for your dog or cat to have its own bed…
  • Keep your home and especially your sleeping room clean and free from clutter.
  • Minimize noise and light and Keep your room dark.
  • Buy and hang blackout curtains over your windows [this better stimulates melatonin (a relaxing hormone) to help you get to sleep and stay asleep].
  • Push the head of the bed all the way against the wall. (creates less movement and disturbance).
  • Start a bedtime routine to prepare for bed.
  • Turn offyour TV, tablet, phone, and other electronics at least 1-2 hours before bed (flashing lights, like a TV, stimulate the brain to stay away).
  • Have a wind down time and go to bed; Engage in a calming activity such as reading spiritual material or listening to soothing music for 15-30 minutes before retiring. A season of prayer may also have a calming effect.
  • Go to bed and get out of bed at the same time everyday.
  • It’s ideal to wake naturally. If using an alarm clock, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual and continue to push the time back 15 minutes each night until you wake just before your alarm.
  • For more information on see this article Sleep Is Just As Important As Exercise

Sweet Sleep Meditations

  • Psalm 4:8 – I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makes me dwell in safety.
  • Psalm 127:2 – It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he gives his beloved sleep.
  • Proverbs 3:24-26 – When you lie down, thou shalt not be afraid; yea, You shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet. Be not afraid of sudden fear…for the LORD shall be your confidence.
  • Ecclesiastes 5:12 – The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
  • Jeremiah 31:25-26 – For I have satiated [satisfied, filled to satiety] the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.


Is It Possible To Get Better Sleep?

Have you ever woke up in the morning feeling so groggy, it was as if you had never slept?

There are many reasons why we can wake feeling this way and some things we can do to improve sleep. If you have diabetes and also trouble sleep you are not the only one. According to the Sleep Disorders Program at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center 40-50% of people with diabetes complain of poor sleep.

There are many reasons why we can wake feeling this way, we will discuss a few of them:

1. Late night suppers or snacks:

According to the Sleep Disorders Program at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center 40-50% of people with diabetes complain of poor sleep.

Late suppers or a snack before bed will not allow you to have your best rest. Late supper or snacks keep the stomach working digesting food. The brain, which orchestrates the complex operation of digestion, is overtaxed, working all night digesting your food, leaving you feeling groggy and tired in the morning.

When we sleep, our whole system should be at rest. Sleep allows our bodies to do restorative work as well as detoxing and reinforcing the immune system. The brain cannot do the restorative work and digestive work at the same time. The digestive work needs to be done before we go to bed so the restorative work can happen and we can wake refreshed. Therefore our last meal should be at least 3 hours before bed.

When we go to bed with digestion work done, our brain can do its restorative work. Growth hormone is produced, a key hormone in strengthening and repairing bones and muscles, converting fat into fuel, and enabling weight loss or weight regulation. It also helps us look and feel younger, naturally! Also cortisol, a stress hormone, is decreased resulting in lower glucose levels.

2. Lack of outdoor activity/Sunlight

During the day, when we get direct sunlight on our eyelids, we absorb melatonin, a sleep hormone. During outdoor physical exercise melatonin production increases 300%. Then as darkness comes with the night the melatonin is excreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin helps regulate sleep by causing drowsiness and lowering the body temperature. It also helps regulate mood, feelings and appetite. Melatonin excretion peaks around 10 PM and begins to rapidly decrease around 2 AM. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant. Avoiding caffeine will improve the work of Melatonin. Caffeine inhibits the metabolism of Melatonin, preventing your body from optimally using it at night to have a good night’s rest.

3. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that interrupts sleep because the person intermittently stops breathing. According to a 2009 study in Diabetes Care, 86% of individuals with diabetes experience some level of sleep apnea, and 55% reported moderate to severe sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea increases blood glucose and risk of poor quality of life. With poor quality of sleep one quickly becomes chronically fatigued. Due to the stress associated with chronic sleep deprivation and abrupt awakenings during the night, the body becomes stressed. So the brain calls for activation of stress hormones. Some of these stress hormones trigger the liver to breakdown glycogen into glucose, increasing your glucose level. The increased glucose levels can contribute to insulin resistance. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the more severe the untreated sleep apnea in a person with type 2 diabetes, the poorer their levels of glucose control.

The cause of sleep apnea and how it affects type 2 diabetes has a lot to do with weight. Type 2 diabetes is typically accompanied by excess weight and abdominal fat. The extra weight may cause the tissues in your neck and throat to fall into your airway, resulting in a blockage.

Take the following Apnea Screen:

S – Snoring? Do you snore loudly (loud enough to be heard through a closed door)
T – Tired and Fatigued? (Do you fall asleep driving or sitting?)
0 – Has anyone Observed you stop breathing while you sleep?
P – Pressure? Do you have, or are you being treated for, High Blood Pressure?
If you answered yes to 2 or more make an appointment to see your doctor to rule out sleep apnea.

Effective lifestyle changes for mild sleep apnea

  • Losing weight helps keep your throat open by reducing pressure on the neck.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. These can relax the tongue and cause it to fall back and obstruct the airway.
  • Stop smoking can help keep airway open and more clear.
  • Follow the other sleeping tips in the Sleep is Just as Important as Exercise Post.

For more than mild sleep apnea a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine will help. It blows air into the throat to keep it open while you sleep.

4. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is characterized by periodic leg movements or an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. RLS can be caused by high blood glucose levels, thyroid disorders, kidney or digestion problems, high fat and/or dairy intake. Iron deficiency and smoking are also often a cause of RLS.

RLS can often be confused for neuropathy. With RLS the urge to move the legs stops in the morning, but the pain and tingling with neuropathy does not stop.

Tips for RLS:

  • Eat low fat healthy whole food type meals
  • Avoid snacking
  • Eat light suppers (see above)
  • Quit smoking and RLS may quit as well!
  • Other Reasons for waking feeling like you have never slept:

Insomnia can be the result of stress, anxiety, and/or depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (a type of therapy in which a patient works with a therapist to change his or her behavioral responses to negative thoughts) is an effective treatment for insomnia. (See also My Remedy for my Sleepless Nights)

High glucose levels can cause thirst, frequent urination, headaches, and hunger, all of which can disturb a person’s sleep during the night. Low glucose can also cause hunger, restlessness, headaches, and night sweats.

Refreshing, restorative sleep can improve glucose metabolism, reduce sleepiness during the day, and may improve your ability to adhere to lifestyle changes or medication and therefore can better manage diabetes, or lower your risk of diabetes.

May your sleep be sweet!

If you would like more information to help you sleep your best, fill out the form below to schedule an appointment!