The link between diabetes and sleep

If you’re living with Type 2 diabetes, hopefully you’re already taking some extra steps to control blood sugar and manage your disease. After all, watching what you eat and getting in those 150 minutes of exercise each week recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) can play big roles in feeling your best.

But did you know that getting enough quality sleep is also directly connected to diabetes management and can even contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes? The link between sleep and diabetes runs deep and, in this post, we’ll dig in for a closer look at this relationship. 


America’s Sleep Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one out of every three adults is not getting enough sleep. That’s more than 30% of us and the fast pace of life today is certainly a contributing factor to the growing crisis of sleep deprivation. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that sleep is vital to our health - diabetes or not. It’s when muscles get repaired, the heart rate naturally slows down, and blood pressure falls, which are all important to good health, but particularly important for those with Type 2 diabetes, as the disease contributes to cardiac-related complications.


Sleep and Insulin Resistance

Here’s the big connection with Type 2 diabetes. One of the bodily functions that sleep impacts is the regulation of hormones, and since insulin is a hormone improper sleep patterns can play a role in elevating insulin resistance. If you have Type 2 diabetes and don’t get enough sleep, it can cause your body to have greater difficulty processing insulin and moving glucose from the bloodstream into your cells where it can be used as energy. This, of course, leads to excess glucose remaining in the blood which contributes to high blood sugar which we all know is not healthy for managing diabetes.


Unstable Blood Sugar and Sleep Disruption

The relationship between sleep and blood sugar can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. A lack of sleep contributes to insulin resistance, which makes managing diabetes more difficult. At the same time, mismanaged blood sugar and the hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic episodes it causes can contribute to insomnia and other sleep disorders. Additionally, when a person becomes hypoglycemic it often leads to frequent trips to the bathroom due to the need to urinate in the night, which disrupts positive sleep patterns. When a person experiences hypoglycemic episodes, it can lead to nervousness, irritability and even nightmares, which all make it a lot harder to settle in for a good night’s sleep.


Other Diabetes-Related Sleep Disorders

There are other sleep-obstructing disorders that are common among those with Type 2 diabetes. These include:

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a condition that involves pauses in breathing during sleep. Many people remain unaware that they suffer from this disorder as they are often asleep when the episodes occur. Nevertheless, sleep apnea results in changes in brain and heart function that alter the sleep cycle and prevent the body from replenishing. In many cases, sleep apnea is also directly associated with obesity, much like Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition brought on by mismanaged blood sugar in which the nerves of the extremities become damaged, resulting in tingling, pain and even burning in the legs and feet. Obviously, this great deal of discomfort tends to keep one up at night.

Restless Leg Syndrome

This sleep disorder is distinguished by an irresistible need to move the legs, usually accompanied by tingling or pain, which may be linked to diabetic neuropathy.


We all know that Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity. Well, so is a lack of sleep. When a person carries too much body fat, it often leads to intense snoring, sleep apnea and general discomfort that contribute to disruptive sleep patterns.


A Lack of Sleep and Poor Diabetes Management

We’ve touched upon how sleep and diabetes are physically linked. However, there’s one area that’s often overlooked in terms of smart diabetes management. If you don’t get enough sleep, you tend to greet the day a little foggier than usual. This can take a toll on how well you stick to your diabetes treatment plan. For instance, if you feel overly exhausted you might:

– Make poor eating decisions, grabbing junk food instead of healthy snacks

– Skip meals which can lead to blood sugar fluctuations

– Feel too tired to complete your daily activity routine

– Forget to test your blood sugar on schedule 

– Deviate from your insulin injection or other prescribed medication schedule


How Much Sleep Do I Need?

This is the million-dollar question. The answer, according to the CDC, is that most adults require about 7 hours of good sleep each night. Children and teens will need slightly more. For the record, sleeping less during the week and trying to catch up on the weekends does not solve the problem. Your brain and body will not recover from the rest you missed. In other words, those added hours on the weekend may feel nice, but they don’t make up for any damage you might have experienced during the week from a lack of sleep.


Five Tips on Getting That 7 Hours of Sleep

  1. Effectively Manage your Type 2 Diabetes

If your blood sugar becomes out of control, it will very likely impact your sleep patterns. Adhering to your doctor-prescribed blood sugar testing and treatment plan will surely help you clock in a good night’s sleep more regularly.

  1. Mentally and Physically Wind Down

Have a “relaxation” routine in place at bedtime. It might be taking a warm bath or shower before getting into bed. It might be reading a good book until your eyes grow heavy. If it makes you feel relaxed and unclutters the mind, it just might help you fall asleep and sleep sounder.

  1. Avoid caffeine after your morning cup

Sometimes when we feel fatigued during the day, we’re tempted to reach for a bold cup of coffee as a pick-me-up. This is a big mistake if you’re having problems sleeping. Caffeine can affect the body for a good 8 hours after being consumed. So even an early afternoon cup might have you tossing and turning come nighttime.

  1. Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet

Experts say that somewhere around 65°F is a good sleeping temperature. Also make sure computers, TVs and that dreaded smartphone are off and will not buzz or blink you awake in the middle of the night.

  1. Skip the naps

The problem with naps is that they tend to happen around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. So maybe you squeeze in an hour or two of shut eye, but when it comes time to settle in for the night, you’ll likely find yourself less tired than if you skipped the nap. This makes it harder to get those 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.



Sleep is important for general health. It’s even more important for those managing Type 2 diabetes. If you’re having problems sleeping through the night, it might be due to poor blood sugar management, stress and anxiety, or a number of diabetes-related complications. If simple solutions like those listed above prove ineffective, it’s time to discuss your sleep issues with your diabetes physician. It’s important to get things under control because sleep is crucial to effectively managing Type 2 diabetes.


We hope you found this post informative. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to keeping you up to date with the latest news and tips on living with diabetes. We’re also committed to helping you stick to your diabetes testing and treatment program by saving you up to 65% on doctor-recommended diabetic supplies from leading manufacturers, such as Accu-Chek, OneTouch, FreeStyle, DexCom, EasyTouch, Clever Choice, TRUEmetrix and many others.


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