Diabetes Forecast

Beyond Sheep Counting

By Christy Parkin, MSN, RN, CDE , ,

After a long day's work, is there anything as good as laying your head down on a soft pillow and drifting off into dreamland? But for a growing number of people—as many as 70 million Americans—getting a good night's sleep has become all too difficult.

Most adults need about 8 hours of sleep per night, although recent surveys show that many get as little as 6 hours, or even less. And yet sleep is as crucial to a person's health as food or water—it's almost as important as breathing.

Sleep disturbances are particularly common in people with diabetes. These problems can lead to depression, weight gain, poor blood glucose control, and heart disease. Some people with type 2 diabetes also have obesity-associated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Having a history of regular snoring, breathing pauses during sleep, morning headaches, dry mouth upon awakening, and daytime sleepiness may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which can be a life-threatening disorder. Severe cases may require surgery or wearing a special device to keep nasal passages open. However, more moderate sleep apnea can often be controlled by losing extra weight and making some changes in your sleeping habits. Your doctor can perform a sleep test (called polysomnography) to determine if you have sleep apnea.

Like everything else in life, a little preparation goes a long way in helping you overcome problems with sleeping. Here are a few hints to help you catch more ZZZ's.

Establish a "pre-sleep" ritual, such as taking a warm bath or spending a few minutes reading.

  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or deep breathing before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly, but not right before bed—strenuous workouts within 2 hours before bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • If you don't fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes, go into another room, and read until you are sleepy.
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature in your room for sleeping. Keep the room well ventilated.
  • Block out all distracting light and noise.
  • Try to wake up at the same time every day—this sets a schedule for your body.
  • And finally, try to leave your worries behind when you go to bed

The good news is that sleep apnea and other disorders are treatable. Talk with your doctor if you are having problems sleeping. Don't lose another night's sleep. It's too important to your overall health and the quality of your life.



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