Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
If you have diabetes and find yourself feeling the urge to take small naps during the day, don’t dismiss it as just the usual tiredness. Sleep disturbances are quite common in persons with diabetes and must not be ignored.
A study conducted in 2012 found that there is a close link between diabetes and sleep disturbances.(1) Sleep disturbance could be sleeping too little or sleeping too much. So, if you’re feeling sleepy during the day, it could be because you’re not getting good sleep at night. This inability to sleep may arise from poor control over blood sugar levels. Here’s how they’re connected.
How diabetes affects sleep:
In persons with diabetes with sustained high sugar levels, the body tries to excrete this excess sugar through urine, leading to greater urination. So, if you’re waking up frequently at night to pass urine, your sleep may be severely disturbed.
When you don’t sleep well at night, you end up feeling tired during the day. This sense of fatigue could trigger overeating, leading to a further spike in blood sugar. So, it’s like being trapped in a vicious cycle.
Besides, diabetes is known to be a cause of sleep-disordered breathing. (2) Sleep-disordered breathing is a condition in which people’s breathing suddenly pauses, they snore and often suffer from sleep disturbances. A study also found that this sleep-disordered breathing can lead to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance,(3) which in turn, aggravate diabetes. In other words, if you have diabetes, not getting sufficient sleep is likely to worsen your health.
So, how much sleep does a person with diabetes need?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people aged between 18 and 60 years should get 7 or more hours of sleep every night. (4) However, there is no fixed amount of sleep that is recommended for those with diabetes. Instead, it is better to focus on achieving the amount of sleep that makes you feel rested upon waking and energetic throughout the day.
Tips to improve your sleep:
Rather than stressing on the number of hours you need to sleep, take measures to improve the quality of your sleep. Cultivate habits that are conducive to sleep. Here are a few things you could try:
- Go to and wake up from sleep at the same time every day. This will help your body get tuned to a healthy sleep-and-waking rhythm.
- Get some regular exercise during the day, but avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime as it may increase your alertness levels. Here are some safe exercising tips that people with diabetes MUST follow.
- If you must take a nap during the daytime, keep it below 30 minutes; if you find that avoiding the nap helps you sleep easier at night, keep yourself busy and don’t nap at all.
- Keep dinners light and avoid eating heavy, oily and spicy foods and soft drinks that may leave you with indigestion and heartburn that interferes with sleep.
- Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages at night because they have a stimulant effect.
- Do not smoke or drink before bedtime as nicotine and alcohol can disturb sleep patterns. Read why diabetics must give up smoking immediately and how much alcohol is okay to have.
- Avoid the use of cell-phones, laptops and e-readers just before bed because the light from their screens messes with your circadian rhythm (your natural sleep cycle), keeping you awake longer.
- Create the right atmosphere to feel sleepy. Dim the lights and create a silent zone. If reading a book generally makes you drowsy, read for a while before going to bed.
- Follow sleep cycles to get good quality sleep. Websites/apps like sleepyti.me help you understand the right times to sleep and wake up as per natural sleep cycles so you always wake up fresh.
- An agitated mind will drive sleep away. Use yoga or deep breathing or meditation to manage your stress better and your quality of sleep will greatly improve. Here are four yoga asanas you can try to control your blood sugar levels.
With practice, you will grow adept at recognizing the factors that disturb your sleep. Avoid those triggers and you are sure to get the quantity and quality of sleep that’s good for your physical and emotional health.
- M.A. Grandner, N.J. Jackson, V.M. Pak, P.R. Gerhman. Sleep disturbance is associated with cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. J Sleep Res. 2012 Aug; 21(4); 427-433 doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2011.00990.x
- H.E. Resnick, S. Redline, E. Shahar, A. Gilpin, A. Newman, R. Walter et al. Diabetes and Sleep Disturbances: Findings from the Sleep Heart Health Study. Diabetes Care 2003 Mar; 26(3): 702-709. https://doi.org/10.2337/diacare.26.3.702
- N.M. Punjabi, J.D. Sorkin, L.I. Katzel, A.P. Goldberg, A.R. Schwartz, P.L. Smith. Sleep-disordered breathing and insulin resistance in middle-aged and overweight men. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2002 Mar 1;165(5):677-82. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11874813?access_num=11874813&link_type=MED&dopt=Abstract
- Centers for Disease Prevention and Control: How Much Sleep Do I Need: Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Available online at: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html