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5 Ways Poor Sleep Hurts Your Blood Sugar

Sleep rocks! Am I right?

Sadly, more than 1/3 of adults in the US fail to get enough Z’s. Oddly, that’s the same number of adults with prediabetes. Related? At least a little. Sleep and health are closely linked and so are sleep and blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes or prediabetes – and even if you don’t – it’s smart to prioritize sleep.

sleep and blood sugar are related

Have you really considered that turning off the lights and snuggling up in bed is a tool for blood sugar management? It is. And it’s right up there with other critical lifestyle habits like managing your weight, being physically active, choosing foods based on quality as well as quantity, nurturing a helpful mindset, taking medications appropriately and more.

5 Ways Too Little Sleep Hurts Blood Sugar Levels

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep nightly. But if you’re not convinced about the connection between sleep and blood sugar, here are 5  ways that skimping on snoozing directly or indirectly puts you at risk for prediabetes and type diabetes or damages your blood sugar control if you already have one of these conditions.

sleepy dog

Even Benny fights to stay awake for fear of missing out. Yes dog FOMO is a thing.

  1. Decreases insulin sensitivity. Sleeping poorly or too little does a number on the balance of some hormones, such as cortisol and growth hormone. And this increases insulin resistance. Scientists found that restricting sleep for a single night to 4 hours impaired insulin sensitivity by 20 – 25% compared to sleeping 8.5 hours. Other studies find that people who sleep 7 – 8 hours per night are the least likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  2. Boosts your appetite. It’s about hormones again. A sleep debt can cause levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin to go up and the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin to go down. And it’s not just appetite that goes up. Calories go up too. Sleep-deprived men and women of a healthy weight ate several hundred more calories than when they slept normally. Even worse, extra calories likely come from high-fat foods and poor-quality snacks.
  3. Packs on the pounds. Short-sleeping is linked with increased weight gain and obesity, at least partly because of the increased calorie intake. Gaining extra weight is clearly linked to insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
  4. Wears you out. When you’re overtired, aren’t you also a little under-motivated for all those necessary self-care behaviors like cooking a healthful meal, taking a walk, measuring your blood sugar levels, etc? Even if you do get out there to exercise, are you able to give it your all?
  5. Impairs your judgment. You’re more likely to have mental fatigue too! And that can lead to poor decisions such as rationalizing your choice to order heavy, greasy takeout; skip your after-dinner walk; ignore your blood sugar monitor; or stay up too late.

So now you can see how sleep and blood sugar are tied together. If you’re short on sleep because you have too many chores or because you’re having too much fun, commit to getting to bed on time. Even though it might not feel as urgent as sending another email, sleep is more important.

Read this post to learn about reversing prediabetes and diabetes.

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Jill Weisenberger

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.

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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.

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