All human beings need sleep. Although we are all have different sleep routines and patterns, the one commonality is that quality sleep makes a huge impact to everyone’s overall health. For those with diabetes, sleep is incredibly important to keeping your symptoms in control and improving your overall sense of wellbeing. In fact, it’s so important we consider if one of our “four pillars of health!”
In this day and age however, we have found ways to avoid getting the right amount of high quality of sleep. Rather it be for work, a highly active social life or simply not wanting to miss out on daily activities, as a society sleep has been knocked down our priority list and usually becomes one of the first things we give up when it comes to finding enough time to complete our to-do lists.
So how can you ensure that you are getting high quality sleep consistently?
How would you determine if your current sleep habits are negatively affecting your health and contributing to your type 2 diabetes symptoms? Can getting better sleep really have a dramatic and positive affect on your life?
It absolutely can, but first, you need to understand sleep quantity vs quality.
Although getting more sleep can help if you are getting very few hours, the quantity is not what is most important. Because our genetics are what determine the amount of sleep our body needs, the sleep range for an average person can be as little as 4 hours to as many as 10 hours.
The most important thing to understand is that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to sleep. There is absolutely no substitute for a good night’s rest. This is very important when it comes to treating and reversing diabetes.
Diabetes and sleep problems often go hand in hand. Diabetes can cause sleep loss, and there’s evidence that the effects from not sleeping well can increase your risk of developing diabetes. This develops a negative cycle where people who are tired will eat more or less healthfully because they are looking to get energy from somewhere. That could mean consuming sugar or other foods that can spike blood sugar levels. Therefore, getting the right amount of high quality sleep can be just as important as what you eat for those with diabetes.
In this post, we are going to look at some of the most effective habits you can form in order to help you get the highest quality sleep possible, while aiding in the management and ideally, reversal of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Consistency is Key
Let’s start with the most important way to affect the quality of your sleep; consistency. Getting in the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same times everyday, even on weekends, allows your circadian rhythm or “internal clock” to effectively set. The importance of setting your internal clock cannot be understated. Our bodies and minds love a sense of consistency in everything we do. Just like learning a skill through repetition, your body’s circadian rhythm can improve through consistency.
Having a consistent sleep pattern helps you feel more refreshed in the mornings. Once your body sets its internal clock properly, you may find that you no longer need an alarm clock to wake up at a reasonable time of day; instead, your body will know exactly when it is sufficiently recharged, healed and cleansed based on your internal clock “settings.” Being interrupted during sleep or waking up to an alarm can disturb this process and in turn leave you feeling tired and drained.
Can you really “catch up” on sleep?
The idea of “catching up” on sleep is an extremely common one, but is not effective in improving your overall health.
For example, if you normally sleep 5 hours per night on weekdays and feel exhausted by the end of the week, getting in 5 extra hours of sleep on the weekends will not carry over throughout the rest of the following week. In some cases, those extra hours are sometimes too many for you and can leave you feeling lethargic throughout the day.
Simply put, it is far better to re-work your daily schedule so that you get 7 hours of sleep every consistently every day than it is to get 5 hours one day and “make up” for it by sleeping 10 hours the next night.
How to get a consistent amount of sleep
There are several habits/ strategies you can use to create a routine for successful sleep:
Habit #1: Set a Bedtime
One of the things we leave behind as we grow up is the bedtime that was set by our parents. Remember how your parents used to make you “get ready for bed?” Maybe they would let you watch TV until 7pm. Then, they had you brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, and let you read in bed for 20 minutes in bed before lights out. The interesting thing is that your parents were helping you form a nightly routine. This type of structure allows you to relax and ensured you got a solid night’s sleep each night.
As an adult, you have the freedom to choose to go to bed whenever you want. But what if the routine your parents put in place wasn’t such a bad idea after all? Ritual is proven to help ease stress and create a sense of certainty. This is especially helpful after a long day of work or when you know you have a tough day to come the next morning. And of course, creating a general bedtime for yourself will create that sense of consistency your body needs to get its’ internal clock running smoothly.
Habit #2: Relax Before Bed
If you have trouble sleeping at night it could be because you did not relax before you jumped into bed. Maybe you just got off the computer from doing some late night work or even finished up some chores. Do not immediately jump into bed right after, finishing a strenuous task. Instead, give yourself about an hour or so before bed to dim the lights and unengage from smartphones and laptops.
Now, here are some great ways to relax/destress before bed:
- Avoid Technology in Bed – Because of technology, it’s easy to get caught in bed with our smart phone or iPad. This hurt your sleep pattern because it causes you to stay awake longer than intended, keeping your mind in an active state and exposing your eyes to unnatural light right before you fall asleep. Eliminating this habit can make a very positive impact in your ability to fall asleep.
- Deep Breathing – Sit up in bed, breathe deeply for about 10 minutes. This is informal meditation, whenever your mind strays from your breath bring it back and concentrate on long deep breaths
- Hot Bath – Taking a 15 – 20 minute bath helps relieve muscles and triggers sleep by raising your body’s core temperature
- Brew Some Tea – Stick with passionflower or chamomile
- Light Reading – Stick with books that do not overly excite or stress your mind. Try to keep the reading to under 30 minutes.
- Meditation – Mentally clear your mind of any and all outside influences and just focus on your present moment.
Sleeping Well No Matter the Environment
I know many people who can sleep like a rock no matter what environment they may be placed into. Others require some form of sleep aid to get to sleep. If you fall into the second category or simply wish you could fall asleep more easily, try some of these tactics below.
- Eye Mask: Great for creating a pitch black environment which is necessary to get to sleep quickly and stay sound asleep. If you have street lights, the moon or other light seeping into your bedroom, it could disturb and interrupt your sleep cycle preventing you from getting a great night’s sleep.
- Ear Plugs: Some who live in apartments, near busy streets or even have some noisy neighbors should give these a try. They will help block out some of the constant low level noise that could be distracting you from relaxing and eventually sleeping.
- Ambient Sound: Maybe you need some relaxing sound to comfort you before bed instead of absolute silence. Try finding an audio recording of rain, waterfall, wind or even white noise. You can buy a “sleep machine” that you can set a sleep timer as well.
Before-Bed Quick Tips: Eat, Drink and Exercise
- Give yourself about three hours in between the last time you eat and the time you go to bed. This helps with digestion and metabolism.
- Drink a glass of water before bed and immediately when you wake up. Drinking water before bed is extremely important to help your body clean out toxins and properly hydrate (though drinking water immediately before bed may result in waking up to use the bathroom, so it may help to cut yourself off from liquids 1-2 hours before bed.) Drinking it in the morning assists with your body’s ability to wake up. The grogginess you feel some mornings is due to dehydration.
- Stay away from stimulants like caffeine before bed. Caffeine accelerates metabolism and keeps you awake.
- Exercising regularly is important as well. Burning off excess energy allows you to sleep better at night. Try to keep the exercise and bedtime at least three hours apart.
By implementing these tips and creating a healthy routine for sleep, you may find that you are more energized, happier, and have an easier time keeping your diabetes symptoms under control.
In the comments below, let us know if you’ll be implementing any of these tips for better sleep!
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Hi I’m Kyle Jensen the Wellness Coach at Smart Diabetes Solutions. Through poor eating habits and an inactive lifestyle I put myself in a bad state both physically and mentally. After years of retraining my mind and body I decided to take my newfound understanding of health and help others in their journey. I remember the struggle and how many times I almost gave up. Now I want to help others who are overweight or have Diabetes live a happier more healthy life.