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How enough sleep can help you control your blood sugar

Consider this your permission to go to bed early tonight.

We can easily recognize the obvious signs of a lack of sleep: low energy, grogginess, poor concentration, etc. But what about the less obvious? Ever notice how you crave more food—especially carb-heavy comfort food—after a night of poor sleep? Yep, there’s a reason for that. Spoiler alert: it’s all related.

The relationship between blood sugar and sleep

Numerous studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to higher levels of cortisol (stress), increased inflammation, and changes in hunger hormones, which can all contribute to greater insulin resistance and higher blood glucose levels.(1)

Consequently, this is correlated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies have also shown that people with irregular blood sugar are much more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. Thus, it's no surprise that the number of Americans who are diabetic or pre-diabetic (~one-third of the population) and the number of Americans who regularly get less sleep than they need (~one-third of the population) is about the same.(2)

In more recent discoveries, scientists have found that, "Poor sleep changes how the body produces and uses insulin,” often leading to insulin resistance. This is directly correlated to higher levels of glucose in the blood (aka blood sugar)—which, in turn, triggers the body to increase production of insulin. It’s a vicious cycle that, over time, can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.(3)

What one night of poor sleep can do

Okay, so you generally sleep fine, but things come up. You go to a party, you catch a red eye, you put in overtime working on a project, someone’s car alarm goes off at 3 a.m., etc… What difference would one single night of poor sleep make? 

It might make more of an impact than you’d think.

In addition to messing with your insulin sensitivity,(3,4) lack of sleep can also down-regulate the satiety (feeling full) hormone leptin, up-regulates the appetite-stimulating (feeling hungry) hormone ghrelin, and increase hunger and food intake.(5) Remember what we said about those comfort-food cravings at the beginning? This is why. 

Okay, what now?

It’s not the end of the world, of course, and there are steps you can take throughout the day to help manage your blood sugar (even after a rocky start to your morning), balance your energy levels, and set yourself up for a better night's sleep ahead.

These might include:

  • Eating meals rich in fiber & protein to help balance hunger hormones and increase your energy throughout the day
  • Cutting back on caffeine, especially in the afternoon
  • Taking steps to reduce your stress 
  • Establishing a nighttime routine to promote better sleep hygiene 

And then there’s Veri. With the ability to directly see how your sleep, food, and lifestyle choices impact your blood sugar in real time, our continuous glucose monitoring system enables you to calibrate your blood sugar via sleep and vice versa. The more you know about how your body works, the better equipped you’ll be to become your most energized, balanced self.

References

1. Denic-Roberts et al., “Subjective sleep disturbances and glycemic control in adults with long-standing type 1 diabetes: The Pittsburgh's Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications study,” Diabetes Res Clin Pract, 2016

2. Mesarwi, O., Polak, J., Jun, J., & Polotsky, V. Y. (2013). Sleep disorders and the development of insulin resistance and obesity. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America, 42(3), 617–634. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecl.2013.05.001

3. Lee, JA et al. (2016). The Effect of Sleep Quality on the Development of Type 2 Diabetes in Primary Care Patients. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 31(2): 240-246. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4729504/

4. Meek, TH and Morton GJ. (2016). The role of leptin in diabetes: metabolic effects. Diabetologia, 59(5): 928-32. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26969486

5. Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS medicine, 1(3), e62. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062

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