Alaska Sleep Education Center

Can a Lack of Sleep Lead to Diabetes?

Posted by Mauricio Reinoso, MD on Jul 21, 2020 7:05:00 AM

Diabetes - Medical Concept on Grey Background with Blurred Text and Composition of Pills, Syringe and Stethoscope. 3D Render.

It’s no secret that factors such as family medical history, diet, weight, and age are known to increase your risk of developing diabetes. But did you know that your sleep habits can also play a role? Believe it or not, sleep deprivation is a significant, but often overlooked risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

While it may seem like sacrificing a few hours of sleep each night may not have any lasting effects on your body, it can actually be detrimental to your hormone levels. With ongoing sleep loss, your body secretes more stress hormones, which may help you stay awake, but also makes it harder for insulin to effectively do its job.

According to GoodRx, when too much glucose stays in your bloodstream, it increases your risk of developing diabetes. The connection? You are more likely to develop diabetes when you don’t get enough sleep because your body does not break down sugar fast enough. The correlation is that direct. Let’s dive deeper into how a diagnosis can come about.


Sleep deprivation leads to high blood sugar

There is a direct correlation between the amount of sleep you get and your blood sugar levels. In fact, as the amount of sleep you get decreases, your blood sugar increases. As your blood sugar levels increase, so does your risk of developing diabetes. It’s a vicious cycle.

This idea was demonstrated by Dr. Walker in his book Why We Sleep. In his book, participants who had no existing signs of diabetes or blood sugar issues were limited to sleeping just four hours a night for six nights. By the end of the week, the participants appeared to have pre-diabetes when challenged with a standard dose of glucose. In other words, a lack of sleep moved a group of healthy people into the pre-diabetes range in just under a week.

Although it’s perfectly normal for your blood sugar levels to naturally surge while you’re sleeping, not getting enough sleep will cause these levels to rise even higher. While your body can typically absorb the glucose from the blood to keep your levels stable, someone who is at a higher risk of developing diabetes will have difficulties handling the surge as their muscle, fat, and liver cells will have trouble absorbing the glucose, which can lead to diabetes. Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night (7-9 hours) will help maintain blood sugar levels and prevent this disease.


Ongoing sleep loss increases your risk of obesity

Believe it or not, people who get less sleep tend to be heavier than those who get a good night’s rest. When people don’t get enough sleep they:

  • Have increased levels of ghrelin (a hunger hormone) and decreased levels of leptin (the satiety/fullness hormone), which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
  • Consume about 300 calories per day more than when they are well-rested.
  • Snack more and engage in less physical activity.
  • Eat more than what is needed to cover the energy cost of staying away longer.

All of these factors can lead to obesity. Oftentimes, individuals are not aware of health risks related to excess weight and its relation to diabetes until after they are diagnosed. This is especially alarming because obesity is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes.

Businessman trying to decide on diet, sweet cookie versus green fresh apple.When an individual has excess weight, the cells in their body become less sensitive to insulin because fat cells are more resistant to insulin than muscle cells. When your body becomes insulin resistant it makes it difficult for the cells in your body to remove glucose from your blood, which can lead to diabetes.

Keep in mind that where you carry your weight, in addition to being overweight, can also increase your risk of developing this disease. Individuals who carry more weight around their waist are more likely to suffer from obesity-related conditions such as diabetes than someone who carries more weight in their hips and thighs. Not only can getting a good night’s sleep help to prevent excessive weight gain, but it can also help prevent diabetes.


Lack of sleep causes fatigue

We’ve all experienced fatigue, a short temper, and a lack of focus that often follow a poor night’s sleep. Many people often brush off symptoms of fatigue, not realizing how serious it can be. Fatigue is a lingering and limiting tiredness. With fatigue, you have an unexplained, persistent, and relapsing exhaustion that can be similar to how you feel when you have the flu. Not only can this limit your productivity, it often leads to diabetes. The more fatigued you feel the more your motor is running, and the more likely you are to develop insulin deficiencies. If you have diabetes, fatigue can be caused by:

  • High blood glucose levels either from a lack of the insulin hormone or from insulin resistance
  • Low blood glucose levels as a result of diabetes medications such as insulin
  • Being overweight
  • Mental and/or emotional issues formed as the result of a diabetes diagnosis

This is why it’s especially important to get proper sleep in order to help manage blood sugar levels.

Fortunately, if sleep deprivation only lasts a few days, these effects can be reversed. With as little as two full nights of sleep, your insulin levels can improve. This is comforting to know for those nights where you need to stay up late for several consecutive nights to meet a deadline or deal with an emergency. However, it’s important to not let this become a habit. Practicing good sleep habits on a nightly basis can help you feel and function optimally as well as reduce your risk of developing diabetes or other health problems.

Get educated about your CPAP equipment 

Because we specialize in sleep-related DME, Alaska Sleep Clinic provides the best education available for your sleep apnea and its treatment. As professionals in the field of sleep medicine, we are able to ensure that you are familiar with any form of treatment your physician determines is best.

We carry an extensive inventory of machines, masks, and other sleep-related products to meet every patient’s unique needs and lifestyle.

We continually strive to ensure that your CPAP experience is positive and you receive the sleep you need. We desire to help you improve your sleep… and therefore improve your life!

We hope you will consider choosing Alaska Sleep Clinic as your DME provider.


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