Type 1 Diabetes and Sleep

Lack of sleep has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. It is recommended that adults aged 18 years and over get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep a day. However, studies have shown that adults with type 1 diabetes experience a poorer quality of sleep in comparison to those without type 1 diabetes. It is estimated that 40-50 % of people with diabetes suffer from poor sleep. Moreover, type 1 diabetes can cause complications of vital organs over time including the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels — all of which are influenced and reliant on our sleep patterns and sleep quality. It is evident, then, that for those with type 1 diabetes, managing sleep will positively impact their diabetes, and vice versa. So how exactly does having type 1 diabetes affect your sleep performance? And, more importantly, how can you sleep better with type 1 diabetes? Read on for more! 

Type 1 Diabetes and its Impact on Sleep

2016 research shows that disrupted sleep for those with type 1 diabetes is the result of behavioural and physiological aspects of diabetes and its management. For example, behavioural aspects may include frequent urination in the middle of the night due to high blood sugars, or having to check blood sugars by setting alarms throughout the night. Physiological aspects may include the stressors that diabetes can toll on one’s mental health, such as racing thoughts, health concerns, anxiety, and depression.  

How to Improve Your Sleep Quality

For those who are experiencing sleep disturbances as a result of their mental stressors, creating an effective night-time routine can do wonders for their sleep quality. Additionally, a neglected catalyst for a positive night’s sleep is how we act during the day. Here are some tips you can implement into your day time routine to enhance your sleep quality when the night rolls around:

  • Ensure you are getting enough physical exercise during the day. This may include going for walks, runs, or doing workouts. This will help your body realize when it’s time to be awake, and when it’s time to turn in.
  • Watch your caffeine intake during the day. Try to avoid caffeine after 1pm. Good alternatives include decaf or herbal teas, as caffeine can stimulate your senses, making it harder for you to sleep when the time comes. 
  • Set your alarm for the same time each morning. Waking up each day at the same time can help set your circadian rhythm. By waking up and going to sleep at the same time, your body begins to adjust to these patterns. Thus, your body will naturally be able to fall asleep at the time it has trained itself to.

In terms of sleeping better throughout the night, it is important to talk to your doctor about the potential reasons you may be waking during the night if it is health related. They may be able to provide you with important medical insight into better managing this disturbance. 

Some tips for before bed to increase your sleep quality:

  • Journal before bed. Journaling is a great way to relieve stress. By writing down all of your thoughts before bed, it clears your mind of any worries that may be lingering. This can be a helpful tool for letting go of the day, and allowing your mind to wind down. 
  • Create a good sleep environment. Have you ever heard of the term “sleep hygiene”? Sleep hygiene refers to your bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent and uninterrupted sleep. Your bedroom environment is a good place to start for maximizing your sleep quality. Some characteristics that can promote healthy sleep hygiene in your bedroom include implementing warm colours, reducing clutter, reducing noise, and making your bedroom as dark as possible for when you’re getting into bed (unless of course you are scared of the dark. In that case, grab a nightlight!)
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. For those with type 1 diabetes, it is especially important to go easy on yourself. Diabetes is a full-time job, so be sure to show yourself some love so that when it’s time to go to bed your mind is not racing with internal dialogue.  

Overall, it is important to remember that managing sleep for type 1 diabetics is not only an evening affair. Proper sleep hygiene can begin during the day, and there are methods you can implement into your day-to-day activity to maximize your sleep quality for when the night time rolls around. A good night’s sleep means you will wake up feeling well rested, energized, and ready to tackle the day, while also keeping your body happy and healthy, so remember to prioritize your sleep. 

Maude Peterson
Maude is a recent graduate from McGill University. With an interest in technology and the value of social ties, she enjoys studying the ways that these two can work together in combination. As marketing copywriter, she focuses on content precision, brainstorming, and plenty of editing!

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