The Bi-Directional Relationship Between Diabetes and Sleep

Meta Description: Diabetes negatively affects sleep quality. Similarly, poor sleep can increase diabetes complications. See how both phenomena are intricately connected.

Diabetes is a common condition that can lead to severe complications when not properly managed. Diabetes affects up to 30 million persons in the US, and the number goes over the 100 million mark globally.

Lack of proper diagnosis could worsen diabetes and trigger several effects and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, exhaustion, and poor sleep. Notably, 50% of type 2 diabetes patients have sleep issues. This is attributed to fluctuating blood sugar levels as well as the associated stress and depression that come with the disease.

However, these two phenomena don’t have a one-way causal relationship. Namely, poor sleep cycles are also associated with elevated blood glucose levels in prediabetes and diabetes patients. Notably, 25% of diabetics claim they sleep less than 6 hours or over 8 hours a night. Moreover, a lack of sleep has been linked with a heightened risk of developing insulin resistance.

This article examines in detail the relationship that diabetes has with sleep and vice versa.

What to Expect?

  • How Does Diabetes Negatively Affect Sleep?
  • How Does Sleep Negatively Complicate Diabetes?
  • How Can Diabetics Improve Sleep?

How Does Diabetes Negatively Affect Sleep?

Diabetes negatively affects sleep in many ways, and this section discusses the major ones.

Triggers Insomnia

People with diabetes can experience hypoglycemia (drop in blood glucose) at night, which makes them struggle with getting proper sleep, triggering insomnia. Usually, this leaves them highly fatigued the next day. Notably, continuous insomnia leads to depreciated health and general well-being.

Psychological Effects

People handle conditions differently, and some may react more poorly than others. This is the case with diabetes as well.

The condition has been found to affect people mentally and emotionally. It’s not uncommon for people with diabetes to show signs of distress and depression, among other negative psychological effects. These feelings could come up at any time but are usually elevated at night, affecting quality sleep.

Physical Effects

Apart from the psychological effect, diabetes can also affect sleep by prompting frequent midnight visits to the bathroom. People with diabetes usually complain about sleep disruption due to an increased urge to use the bathroom. The issue of constant urination at night is due to high blood sugar that causes the kidney to overwork.

While high blood sugar prompts excessive urination at night, low blood sugar at night can deter sleep by triggering a series of conditions. Namely, low blood sugar at night could have diabetics break into abnormal sweats, as well as induce headaches and nightmares.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome is one of the common conditions that people with diabetes also experience. It’s commonly associated with people who have diabetes 2, with one out of five likely to experience it.

The conditions are characterized by tingling and irritation of the legs, deterring the ability to fall asleep and triggering wakefulness at midnight. The condition could also worsen to cause other complications such as peripheral neuropathy.

How Does Sleep Negatively Complicate Diabetes?

There are many ways sleep affects diabetes. The following sections discuss the series of conditions prompted by a lack of sleep that could potentially worsen diabetes.

The Dawn Phenomenon

The dawn phenomenon is one of the more common ways sleep increases blood sugar levels. It’s characterized by an abnormal rise in blood glucose between 3 am and 8 am.

Usually, the body releases hormones at the early hours of a new day to send signals to the brain to trigger wakefulness. In the process of these hormones being released, blood glucose level usually increases.

While optimal insulin release by the pancreas should counter the expected blood glucose rise in healthy persons, diabetics don’t have such luxury owing to diminished insulin sensitivity. Hence, a person with diabetes will wake up with high blood pressure, lasting for extended periods throughout the day. Such consistent rise usually opens the door for several complications that could hamper overall health.

High Blood Pressure

Lack of proper sleep or irregular sleep schedule has been found to correlate with increased blood sugar levels in both healthy people and diabetics. However, while the former has optimal insulin sensitivity for compensation, the latter suffer high blood pressure, exposing them to a series of different conditions like kidney disease and diabetic eye disease.

Opposing Sleep Medications

Diabetics that depend on sleep medications are at an extremely high risk of developing stress-related high blood sugar if the medication doesn’t interact appropriately with the condition or its associated management medications. People who depend on sleep medications are also open to depressing and distressing thoughts, putting them at risk of increased diabetes symptoms.

Affects Hunger Hormones Balance

There’s the possibility that a lack of quality sleep may increase cravings for sugary food. Namely, sleep deprivation increases ghrelin level (the hunger hormone) while depleting leptin hormone (the hormone that promotes satiety). This may induce obesity, which happens to be a predominant diabetes risk factor.

How Can Diabetics Improve Sleep?

Knowing the best ways to deal with diabetes before it affects quality sleep and vice versa is one of the best things any person with diabetes can wish for. On the flip side, lately diagnosed diabetes conditions could prove more challenging to manage.

This section considers some of the management tips that diabetes who have issues with sleep can implement.

Seek Expert Advice

Nothing beats the input of a medical practitioner when handling diabetes and the related sleep issue that accompanies it. You can call your doctor and explain exactly what symptoms and conditions you experience every time you sleep or try to.

With a comprehensive submission, your doctor will help you with the proper management tips and equipment that you need to get your health in a much better condition.

Diet and Proper Meal Planning

The kind of food you consume also plays a significant role in how your blood sugar level could rise at night, reinforcing the importance of adequate meal planning. As a person with diabetes, it would be unsafe to go for all kinds of food, especially those with lots of sugary content.

You should go for rich, highly nutritious, fiber-rich meals with a low glycemic index and glycemic load to help you keep a balance in the rise or drop of your sugar level. A diabetic digital meal planner is one of the best ways of accessing the right diet plan for your condition.

Sleep at the Right time

If you’re having issues with sleep as a diabetic, the least you can do is keep a proper sleep schedule. Going to bed early enough will give you the chance to get better rest and improve your body control on blood glucose levels. Conversely, staying up at night has many consequences, including the possibility of being susceptible to distress and depression.

Exercise Regularly

Getting the proper exercise as a diabetic is one of the significant steps you can take for better functionality and sleep. Exercising is highly effective because it reduces blood glucose levels and ensures fatigue, a recipe for better sleep at night.

There are different exercise options that people with diabetes can go for. The most crucial factor is that they choose one in line with their strength.


The relationship between sleep and diabetes is undebatable, and people with diabetes must prioritize early diagnosis and subsequent treatment. You can significantly lessen the negative effects both phenomena have on each other via the proper diabetes management tips discussed in this article. Namely, exercising, dieting, and strict adherence to medications will go a long way to better the overall health of people with diabetes having sleep issues.