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Benefits of sleep

sleepHow can a lack of sleep affect your health?

A lack of sleep can affect your health, your mood and your quality of life. Ideally we should be spending approximately 7 to 9 hours a day sleeping.

Studies from the Australian Sleep Health Foundation show a high percentage of Australians are affected by fatigue and exhaustion on a daily basis due to inadequate or ineffective sleep.

Sleep difficulties tend to be more common for people with diabetes.

What happens during sleep?

  • When a person is sleeping, the brain and body can recover from the day and get ready for the next day. ‹‹
  • Any learning that took place is reinforced. ‹‹ Studies show the process of dreaming during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep can be important for learning new things. ‹‹
  • Stress hormone levels are low; this lowers blood pressure and allows the heart to relax. ‹‹
  • Growth hormone is released, this helps muscles and other parts of the body recover from wear and tear that occurs during the day.

Not getting enough sleep?

Not getting enough sleep or enough quality sleep for a few nights can lead to:

  • Feeling tired or sleepy ‹‹
  • Feeling irritable ‹‹
  • Trouble paying attention and learning new things ‹‹
  • Higher blood pressure ‹‹
  • Higher blood glucose levels

People with poor sleep over many years are at higher risk of:

  • Gaining weight ‹
  • Developing diabetes
  • Developing heart disease ‹
  • Getting sick more often
  • Having a shorter life expectancy

Causes of poor sleep

For people with diabetes, there are several common causes of poor sleep.

These include: sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, high and low blood glucose levels, depression, anxiety and stress.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

Sleep apnoea is one of the most common sleep disorders and can affect both adults and children. The most common type of sleep apnoea is called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). This is where the airway becomes blocked or collapses during sleep, which causes shallow breathing or breathing pauses.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea:

  • Snoring ‹‹
  • Waking up many times during the night ‹‹
  • Morning headaches ‹‹
  • Feeling irritable or depressed ‹‹
  • Feeling tired during the day ‹‹
  • Falling asleep during the day ‹‹
  • High blood pressure

Treatment for sleep apnoea:

  • Healthy eating
  • Being physically active
  • Lose weight (losing 10% of your body weight can make a big difference)
  • Not drinking alcohol before bed
  • Sleeping on your side or stomach rather than on your back
  • Preventing a stuffy nose by treating allergies or other nasal problems

Severe sleep apnoea may be treated with 'continuous positive airway pressure' or 'CPAP'(this blows air under pressure through a hose and into a mask that you wear over your nose and/or mouth.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome is a condition that causes unusual feelings with a person’s legs, especially at night. The causes are unknown.

Common sensations experienced are:

  • Creepy-crawly
  • Twitchy
  • Achy
  • Electrical

These sensations tend to go away once you move around. It can also occur in the arms or other parts of the body.

Peripheral neuropathy

Diabetes can cause nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. The most common type is peripheral neuropathy. This causes numbness, tingling and pain in the feet and hands.

High and low blood glucose

Blood glucose levels can vary, when they are high (above 15 mmol/L), you may feel thirsty and drink a lot. You may get up several times during the night to use the bathroom and this can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Low blood glucose level (below 4 mmol/L) can also disrupt sleep. Certain types of diabetes medications such as insulin or sulphonylureas increase the risks of low blood glucose levels. Talk with your diabetes health professional about changing your treatment plan if your blood glucose levels are too high or too low.

Depression, anxiety or stress

Depression, anxiety and stress are common for people with diabetes, it can affect blood glucose levels and can cause sleep problems. Stress is a part of everyone’s life but too much stress can lead to high or low blood glucose levels, depression, anxiety and other health problems.

Diagnosing sleep problems

If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, the first step is to talk to your diabetes health professional. They may recommend that you have a sleep study to be certain about the diagnosis of the problem as well as understand the severity of the condition. A sleep study involves sleeping in a special laboratory overnight while wearing monitors that measure what your body does while you sleep. A technician will put monitors on you in the evening and watch the computer screen while you sleep.

How to sleep better

Sleep is essential for health and wellbeing. Here are some suggestions for a better nights’ sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time and get up from bed at the same time each day ‹‹
  • Exercise during the day, not too close to bedtime ‹‹
  • Stay off personal electronic devices such as your phone, tablet or computer for at least two hours before bed 
  • Try to spend some time outdoors ‹‹
  • Make the bedroom as restful as possible ‹‹
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex ‹‹
  • Take medications as directed ‹‹
  • Avoid alcohol late in the evening 

Read the original article

Click here to read the original article. Published in Diabetes SA Living Magazine – July 2017, page 30.

Additional information

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