You've finished work later than planned, have come back from the gym, showered and finally eaten. As midnight approaches, time has managed to yet again vanish as you lay back and begin to rest your eyes. That's when you remember you still have the washing up to contend with and that urgent report to complete. Your alarm is set for less than 7 hours until now, but you still manage to cram in an extra few hours...
We're led to believe that this is a standard part of keeping on top of a busy lifestyle right?
You may think slimming down the amount of hours you sleep is necessary in the short term, however it could have unwanted consequences for the future. Recent studies have suggested that regularly missing out on sleep can increase the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. When the body doesn't get enough sleep, it begins to cling and create defences, it shouldn't need to, resulting in long term side effects. In terms of diabetes, your body can start to create a form of insulin resistance to deal with the short-term effects of sleep deprivation. However, as insulin is required in cells to process sugar properly, your body could suffer from high blood sugar in the long run.
It is well documented that we should be getting, on average, 7-8 hours of sleep every night to be well rested and fully recuperated. Depending on the individual, an hour or more may be needed. In reality, research has shown that many of us only get 5-6 hours each night, which creates a sleep debt we can't repay. Recently, it has been suggested that sleep is now just as important as eating well and exercising, with evidence showing that lack of sleep can have a negative effect on the hormones and metabolism contributing to possible Type 2 diabetes. A study from the University of Chicago monitored the blood sugar levels of 11 healthy men who were only allowed 4 hours of sleep over 6 nights. The conclusion of the study revealed that their glucose tolerance had become impaired along with a higher than normal blood sugar levels. Whilst over such a short time this wasn't enough to cause diabetes, this study led experts to believe that chronic sleep deprivation can increase the stress hormone cortisol, which could increase insulin resistance. This is the precursor for pre-diabetes, which if not managed properly can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
So how can we improve our sleep pattern to not only have a better quality of life, but also reduce the chances of contracting Type 2 diabetes?
Here are our 3 top tips to a better sleeping pattern and behaviour:
Ensuring your bedroom is at the right room temperature is more important than you think. The temperature can interrupt your dreaming as well as getting to sleep initially. Of course, a quiet and calm atmosphere is essential so keep distractions out of the bedroom. This includes anything to do with work, pets and items that emit a form of light. You may require the aid of earplugs, an eye mask, or even more comfortable pillows to ensure that your bedroom is optimised for the best sleeping experience possible. You can even research relaxing smells and noises to soothe the senses.
This may seem like an uphill battle due to our busy lifestyles in the 21st century, but finding a routine and sticking to it can be the most beneficial when it comes to curing your sleep deprivation. This also makes it easier to monitor how much rest your body needs to be fully operational. Why not keep a diary of rest and dreams to clock your progress? This includes napping! Those who nap swear by it, but it is best also to limit the amount of naps you take during the day as this could make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Sorry nappers…
Whilst the rumour mill suggests steering clear of snacking before bed, a light snack or a glass of milk is perfectly fine. However, do avoid larger meals as this could lead to indigestion, also less energy is being used during sleep, meaning some foods may not digest as well as they should. Although there is no concrete evidence, certain foods have been known to affect your dreams as well. It almost goes without saying, ingesting high amounts of caffeine, nicotine, chocolate, tea, and fizzy drinks too close to your bedtime can understandably make it harder to sleep well.
These tips are helpful whether you are at risk of diabetes or already suffering from it, but also for your general wellbeing. Ensuring you get the help possible from your doctor or even a sleep specialist can help in preventing or monitoring the condition. If you would like more information about Type 2 diabetes, you can see our information page here.