glenn ellis

Glenn Ellis

*More than a million people are affected by type 2 diabetes and don’t even know it. And the risks they face are high: left untreated, the condition can raise the risk of heart attacks, blindness and amputation.

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 percent of cases.

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin – the hormone that converts glucose into energy – or the body stops responding to insulin, triggering high levels of glucose in the blood. This causes symptoms such as fatigue, thirst, frequent urination, recurrent thrush and wounds that are slow to heal.

Most people associate type 2 diabetes with being overweight, eating junk food or a couch-potato existence. Yet research suggests that modest weight gain, or even relatively minor disruptions to normal sleep patterns, could be enough to cause it. If you regularly get less than five hours’ sleep, your risk of getting diabetes is double that of someone who gets seven to eight hours.

It’s thought the danger arises because lack of rest upsets the body’s circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates natural sleep and wake cycles.

Being awake when we should be asleep increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which promotes the generation of glucose (to provide energy to the body to keep it going).

Our fast-paced society takes its toll on sleep. The average American sleeps about 7–7 1/2 hours a night. A hundred years ago, the average was 9 hours.

Insomnia isn’t just an occasional rough night or sleeping less than you think you should. The key question to determine if you have insomnia is “how rested do I feel?” If you have all the energy and alertness you want, you don’t have insomnia, no matter how little sleep you get. On the other hand, if you’re tired and drowsy all day, you may have insomnia, even if you’re in bed 12 hours a night. The quality of sleep is as important as the quantity. For example, if you’re struggling for breath all night or your body can’t relax because of stress and tension, you may not feel rested no matter how much you sleep.

There are at least three kinds of insomnia: problems getting to sleep, problems staying asleep, and waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep. Problems getting to sleep (sleep-onset insomnia) are often due to stress, too much activity or anxiety at bedtime, or bad sleep habits.

Problems staying asleep (sleep-maintenance insomnia) are often due to medical problems such as sleep apnea or an enlarged prostate. We all wake up 12–15 times a night, but we usually get right back to sleep without ever realizing or remembering we’ve been awake. It’s insomnia if you can’t get back to sleep easily. Problems with waking up too early are often a sign of depression, or they may be caused by noise and light in the bedroom.

Until recently, though, it was thought that lack of sleep had few long-term health effects. The main concern has been accidents and mistakes due to poor concentration and fatigue. But recent studies at institutions such as the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania State University have shown that sleep deprivation (getting at least two hours less than you want) leads to insulin resistance, increases in appetite, and higher levels of stress hormones in the blood — conditions that can contribute to the development of diabetes. Some researchers believe there may also be a connection between sleep disorders and heart disease.

While sleeplessness can promote diabetes, symptoms associated with high blood glucose, low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), and some diabetes complications can also interfere with sleep. If your blood glucose level is high, you may be in the bathroom urinating every few hours during the night. Hypoglycemia can cause nightmares, night sweats, or headache; hunger that wakes you up to get food; or symptoms associated with daytime hypoglycemia such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness, or shaking.

It is important to realize that sleep (or the lack of it) is just one of the factors which influence Diabetes  Type 2, but it is an important factor alright. We can safely conclude that someone with regular and quality sleep drastically reduces the probability of Diabetes.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep and conversely, the consequences of quality sleep deprivation generally are well-documented. The durations of adequate and inadequate sleeping may vary though, depending on age. Recent studies have increasingly been establishing a connection between quality sleep deprivation and Diabetes Type 2.

In other words, quality sleep deprivation can cause Diabetes Type 2.

Does this mean that all I need to do to combat diabetes is get a good night’s sleep?

Yes and no.  Sleep deprivation has a direct correlation to blood sugar control.

In fact, according to a recent study for the University of Chicago, restoring a healthy amount of sleep may be as powerful an intervention as the drugs currently used to treat type 2 diabetes. This suggests that improving sleep quality in diabetics would have a similar beneficial effect as the most commonly used anti-diabetes drugs

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

Glenn Ellis,  is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and is  a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics.

His second book, “Information is the Best Medicine”, was released in January, 2012.

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