The Danger of Insomnia And Diabetes

Eli Ben-Yehuda

Written by Eli Ben-Yehuda

On August 5, 2020
Elevated Glucose & Sleep

Often, people will blame what they ate or their inactivity as the culprit for an out-of-range blood glucose level. But there are other health behaviors that can affect blood glucose levels. Poor sleep habits is a common – and maybe unnoticed – one. Not only do poor sleep habits affect the circadian rhythm, which can lead to higher blood glucose levels, but they also increase low-level stress. Increased stress increases heart disease risk factors.

Can’t Fall Asleep?

Dreaming of obtaining a good night’s sleep and in target blood glucose? Let’s do some problem-solving. If you find your blood glucose levels elevated in the morning after being in target range when you went to sleep the night before, start working on your sleeping habits. You may see your blood glucose levels improve.

If you have trouble falling asleep, adopting a nightly routine before going to bed. Try taking a warm shower, reading a book or listening to relaxing music. These routines will help to wind you down after a busy day. But what you eat can also help your sleep pattern.

 

What A New Sleep Study Reveals

A new study expands on our understanding of this relationship. The authors of the latest study, at Toho University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, explain further, saying:

“It was not clear whether glucose intolerance was due to the changes in food intake or energy expenditure or to the sleep deprivation itself.”

In other words, are the changes in diet and exercise related to poor sleep the reason for a rise in diabetes risk, or is something else at work? The researchers set out to understand exactly why sleep deprivation might undermine insulin sensitivity. To do so, they used a mouse model, focusing on changes in their livers. For just 1 night, they kept half of the mice awake for 6 hours during their usual sleep time.

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The scientists observed the mice carefully and, every time they appeared to be dozing off, they would gently handle or touch them. In this way, they kept them awake without causing undue stress to the animal.

To pick apart the impact of lifestyle factors, for 2 weeks before the study began, all mice were given access to unlimited high-fat food and sugar water; also, the mice had their movement restricted.

This way, the researchers could observe the effect of sleep deprivation in isolation because, whether the mice had slept or not, they were fed similar diets and could not exercise.

The Importance of Fiber

A recent randomized crossover study on sleep and diet published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed a higher intake of fiber was associated with a better night of sleep. Participants in the study consumed fixed meals provided by the study. The meals that were higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat and sugar resulted in a more restful sleep (more time in the stage of deep, slow wave sleep).

Even better, the meals that improved sleep would also work well for managing blood glucose. Foods that are higher in fiber slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This results in a slower rise in blood glucose levels. Better sleep and slow absorption of glucose make fiber doubly important in controlling blood glucose levels with diet. Fiber recommendations for adults range from 21 to 38 grams per day. Not sure how to boost the fiber in your diet? Here are some tricks to filling your meals with fiber.

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How To Increase Your Fiber Intake
  • Choose bran cereal (1/2 cup, dry) or old-fashioned rolled oats (1/4 cup dry equals 15 grams carbohydrate) for breakfast or snacks.
  • Choose higher fiber fruit (remember to count the carbohydrate content), such as pears, raspberries, blackberries, apples or dried dates.
  • Use beans as your high-fiber (1/2 cup cooked equals 15 grams carbohydrate and 1-ounce protein) entree at lunch or dinner (kidney beans, lentils, black beans, chickpeas or soybeans).
  • Use high-fiber (carbohydrate) sides for your meals, such as quinoa, baked sweet or white potato with skin, bulgur or peas.
  • If you’re seeking a source of fiber that is low in carbohydrate, choose 1-ounce almonds or 1/2 cup frozen spinach.

Effectively managing diabetes and other chronic diseases is associated with healthy lifestyle behaviors. Sleep studies have shown getting seven hours of sleep will reduce food cravings for sugary, salty and high-fat foods. This will result in a healthier eating plan, weight loss and improved blood glucose levels. Healthy food choices and being active are part of a lifestyle, but sleep – a good night’s rest – is also a critical component to a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthily, be active and sleep well.

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