How diabetes can affect sleep

Sleep is an important part of our health – particularly for those whose bodies are battling a condition like diabetes.

15 April 2015
by Meg de Jong

Studies have shown that diabetics are more prone to sleep disorders than the general population due to fluctuating blood sugar levels, amongst other reasons. We take a look at some of the most common sleep disorders affecting diabetics, and some helpful tips to improve your sleep.


The challenges that diabetes presents can take their toll on the bodies of those with the disorder, which can affect quality of sleep. When your body isn’t operating optimally, the knock-on effects can include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or disturbed sleep. What’s more, there is growing evidence that insufficient sleep can affect hormones and metabolism in a way that aggravates diabetes, according to Kristen Knutson, a University of Chicago researcher investigating the link between sleep and diabetes.Solution: Maintaining a healthy and regular sleep routine will help to improve your body’s circadian rhythm, allowing you to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. Firstly, commit to a regular bedtime, and stick to it. Make sure you also commit to bedtime habits that encourage relaxation rather than stimulate your brain, such as a warm bath, and switching off all electronic devices. It is also important not to eat too late at night, as digestion can impact your quality of sleep.

Night sweats

A common complaint of diabetics is sleep hyperhidrosis, more commonly referred to as “night sweats”. This affliction can be caused by a dip in blood glucose levels during sleep and can worsen the common diabetic symptoms of thirst and dehydration.

Solution: Sleeping in cotton sheets with a light blanket can help lessen the likelihood of night sweats interrupting your sleep. Moisture-absorbing pajamas are another option. Sleeping with a large bottle of water next to the bed can relieve thirst and prevent dehydration.

Sleep apnoea

According to recent research, diabetics have an increased risk of suffering from sleep apnoea. This condition occurs when the throat closes off temporarily during sleep, causing breathing to stop. The condition makes it difficult to reach the deeper stages of sleep, and those that suffer from it often wake up feeling groggy, unrested, and complaining of headaches. 

Solution: If you suspect you have sleep apnoea, investigate partaking in a sleep study to find out more. Weight can also be a factor in causing this condition, so weight control is also advised.

Restless Leg Syndrome

The uncontrollable urge to move your legs around, or a creepy-crawly sensation on your skin is known as Restless Leg Syndrome. It can be annoying enough to disturb sleep. Like sleep apnoea, it is more common in diabetics than the general population, and has been attributed to the damage that diabetes causes to the nerves.

Solution: In chronic cases, medication can be prescribed to help with this condition. However, stretching, taking a warm bath and exercise has also been reported to provide relief.


IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

Read More: Diabetes Super Section