April 22, 2015

Sleep and Its Effect on Diabetes

The last blog on Alzheimer's disease is the last on diabetes complications and now I will present some of the related issues.

I know that sleep is important as I found out the hard way and was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea over two years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I have been following several sleep apnea sites and reading every newsworthy article about sleep since. I would encourage, no, urge everyone to read this article about sleep. Granted, it is about what “experts” feel is the necessary sleep needs for infants through the elderly, but I feel that it is probably closer to reality thinking than just what many “experts” arrive at for other problems.

Please consider clicking on the sleep recommendations chart and then down the page, click on the line to download a printable chart. I have used the chart already in my talks with other people that are asking questions about sleep and have found it very useful.

David Mendosa has two articles about sleep. One on the amount of sleep needed to help avoid diabetes and another on the important role sleep plays in diabetes. I will urge people to read these two articles. Then David follows the two articles with a third about a sleep shortcut for helping people with diabetes.

I have to say this now, as I have done the same thing and to this day have never had anyone thank me for a blog I have written about what to do to help prevent diabetes. It is sort of like preaching to the choir, as most people are not looking for something until after they have diabetes. Yes, I feel these could be important for the right reader, but I feel like most people are not looking for this unless they have diabetes in their immediate family.

Then WebMD has an article about shorting the amount of sleep you get that fits my thoughts exactly. While skimping on sleep may seem like a good idea in the short run, it can have serious long-term consequences. Scientists warn that too little shut-eye may raise type 2 diabetes risks. And if you already have diabetes, sleep deprivation may undermine your blood glucose management. Most of the time, it does make my diabetes management more difficult.

I know the last sentence is true as I have been guilty of doing this and I still get into trouble with this. The article offers these six tips for better sleep.

#1. Keep Regular Bedtime and Waking Hours. This is easier said than done in today's 24-7 society. But experts say you may have less trouble falling asleep if you stick to a regular bedtime and wake time, even on weekends. Be careful about napping too much or too late in the day, which can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Rather than napping, take a walk to refresh yourself.

#2. Create the Right Sleep Environment. Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and comfortable. Maintain the temperature between 54 F. to 75 F. Cut noise with earplugs or "white noise" machines. Also, keep the room dark. You can block light with heavy shades or curtains, or use an eye mask.

A comfortable mattress and pillow make sleep more restful. If your mattress is getting old, consider buying a new one that offers better support. Keep pets out of your bed. They may wake you if you have allergies or if their movement disturbs you.

#3. Reserve the Bedroom for Sleep and Sex. Think "bedroom," not "home office." Use your bedroom only for sleep or sex, not for paying bills or tackling a pile of paperwork. Consider banning computers and televisions from the bedroom. That way, you'll cut the temptation to stay up Internet-surfing or watching old sitcoms.

Ultimately, you're trying to create a mental association between the bedroom and sleep. If you lie in bed awake for more than 20 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity, such as reading, until you feel sleepy. Don't lie there staring at your clock. This makes you anxious, and sleep more elusive.

#4. Don't Wind Up. Wind Down. Going to bed soon? This is not the time to break out the kick-boxing exercise video. Sleep experts suggest that you finish exercising at least three hours before turning in. Exercise raises body temperature and heightens alertness -- two obstacles to falling asleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

At the same time, exercising earlier in the day may help to improve your sleep. Instead of winding yourself up before bedtime, try winding down. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, which might include reading or taking a warm bath. Not only will the heat relax you, but afterward, your body temperature will drop in a way that partially mimics what happens when you fall asleep. That makes it easier to drift off.

#5. Watch What You Consume. A light snack or glass of milk before bedtime is fine. But avoid large meals within two hours of bedtime because they can cause indigestion. Too many fluids before bedtime can interrupt your sleep with the need to urinate.

Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that can disrupt sleep. Avoid caffeine, an ingredient in coffee, tea, chocolate, and colas, for 6-8 hours before bedtime. Smoking before bedtime can make it harder for you to fall asleep. While many people consider alcohol a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep.

#6. Seek Professional Help If You Need It. How much sleep you get is important, but so is the quality. While everyone has trouble sleeping on occasion, you may need to consult your doctor or a sleep specialist about a possible sleep disorder if you have:
  • Regular difficulty with sleeping.
  • Tiredness during the day even if you've slept at least 7 hours.
  • Trouble performing daily activities.
A common and potentially serious disorder called sleep apnea can increase risk of diabetes, if untreated. With sleep apnea, your breathing stops repeatedly or becomes very shallow while you're asleep. Levels of oxygen in your blood may drop. Common symptoms include loud snoring, gasping, or choking. Because the disorder disrupts your sleep, you may feel very sleepy during the day. If you have such symptoms, ask your doctor about testing and treatment.

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