In the quest for low blood sugar, we often focus on the three factors we can control (genetics being the wild card): exercise, diet and stress. But, fellow night owls, sleep is yet another factor that affects blood sugar, and because it’s a factor that seems to be overlooked—I sure didn’t give it enough attention while trying to lower my sugar—I am sounding the alarm here and now (hopefully you are already awake). A 2015 meta analysis on the link between amount of sleep and risk for type 2 showed that those who got 7–8 hours per day of sleep were much better off than those who did not get enough sleep (less than 6 hours a night, which doubles the risk of insulin resistance).
There is also ample research showing the negative impacts of apnea (if you have it), frequent waking and tossing and turning on your blood sugar. Its not only the hours that count but how those hours are counted in terms of quality. Plus, who among us has not, after a poor night’s sleep, risen only to overfill ourselves with quick carbs in a vain attempt to get energy from food? And isn’t it so that when you go through the day tired, the first thing to fall off the agenda is exercise—ironically one of the most important things you can do to lower your sugar? Such a vicious spiral!
So, whether you like burning the midnight oil or you have unwanted insomnia (I tend towards both), your lack of sleep is still a persistent and pesky problem that doesn’t necessarily go away unless you take concerted action. Thankfully, some of the dietary changes you are already making will have knock on effects for your sleep. Specifically, if you cut back on caffeine and limit your alcohol consumption to one drink, you should notice a difference—especially in combination with getting some kind of exercise everyday. In doing all three, I’ve noticed I’m sleeping much better through the night.
Another critical aspect of good sleep I’ve not mastered is the evening “wind down.” For example, I wrote this post at 10pm on a brightly lit screen when, as the experts say, I should have been in child’s pose in a cool, dark room, having finished a cup of chamomile tea. But, as it keeps happening, writing these posts gives me impetus: in this instance, for creating some kind of pre-sleep relaxation routine—a gal can dream, can’t she? At least she can if she’s getting enough quality sleep!
Finally, what was news to me (as a result of writing this post) is that those who average 9 or more hours a night of sleep are are also at risk for type 2 and a host of other health problems. Incredibly, only one extra hour can do this, throwing off the body’s rhythm and regulation and making us tired throughout the day. Who knew?! There goes the weekend and vacation sleep-ins! I’m going to shut down the snooze option and aim for exactly 7-8 hours and see what happens.