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!