According to experts, sleep disorders are an underestimated factor in type 2 diabetes.
According to the Sleep Foundation, around half of people with type 2 diabetes experience difficulty sleeping due to unstable blood sugar levels, which can lead to frequent toilet visits and other disease-related symptoms such as increased thirst and headaches.
Studies have shown that inadequate and irregular sleep, as well as waking up repeatedly, can cause insulin resistance. For people with prediabetes or diabetes, this means that poor sleep can make their condition worse.
People with diabetes are more likely to have sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea. A 2009 study found that 86% of participants with type 2 diabetes also had sleep apnea.
In addition, a study published Monday found that people with psychiatric disorders, especially those with insomnia, were more likely to have type 2 diabetes.
Many people with insomnia also have other health problems that can contribute to a higher risk of diabetes, study author Nanna Lindekilde of the University of Southern Denmark told US News & World Report. These include high blood pressure and heart disease.
The link between sleep disorders and diabetes is most likely “bidirectional,” with both diseases increasing the risk of the other, the researchers write in the study.
Other research has suggested this as well. One study found that persistent insomnia increased the risk of developing diabetes in people under the age of 40.
Sleep deprivation increases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lowers levels of leptin, which signals when people are full, scientists say. This can make it difficult for a person with diabetes to resist the temptation to eat and drink high-sugar foods.
Studies have shown that around 25% of people with diabetes sleep either less than six hours or more than eight hours a night. Too little or too much sleep has a direct impact on blood sugar levels.
Good sleep hygiene, including following a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, can help improve the quality of sleep for people with diabetes. So can proper diet and exercise.
Even without a diagnosed sleep disorder, lack of sleep has been shown to predispose a person to diabetes. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, as little as four or five days of inadequate sleep can lead to glucose intolerance.
However, scientists say more research is needed to better understand the relationship between sleep disorders and the risk of developing diabetes.