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Regular Sleep, Healthy Future

We know that consistent quality sleep improves brain function, and our body’s ability to fight diseases and illness. Also, that sleep enhances our...

We know that consistent quality sleep improves brain function, and our body’s ability to fight diseases and illness. Also, that sleep enhances our overall health and quality of life.  But, this can be a struggle for around half of us with type 2 diabetes. 

The goal for this year’s World Sleep Day is to highlight the benefits of consistent and regular sleep, and how people around the globe can achieve it.  So why do we struggle with sleep and what can we do?  This article gives three solutions that will allow us to drift away each night- with no nightmares and no sheep counting necessary. 

Why does our community struggle with sleep?

Diabetes related symptoms and varying blood sugar levels cause trouble falling asleep, bad dreams, interrupted sleep and even insomnia.  

Blood sugar levels that are too low or high can cause trouble with falling asleep like headaches, thirst, or stress and disturbances such as nightmares, sweating, or frequent bathroom trips. 

It is a “chicken-egg situation”, sleep struggles due to diabetes and the role sleep struggles can play in diabetes. But one thing is for sure, improving your sleep can decrease negative symptoms of diabetes and improve your overall health.

How can we fall asleep and stay asleep?

Our goal is to regulate our sleep and eventually maintain consistent, quality sleep. Here are some solutions to fall asleep and stay asleep!

Consistent Diet that Maintains Blood Sugar:

Keeping your blood sugar controlled will decrease the symptoms that cause trouble sleeping. If you want to regulate your sleep you must regulate your diet. Choose foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. 

We want to avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime (don’t forget about chocolate). Additionally, avoiding heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime, with the exception of a healthy light snack will minimize food related sleep disturbances. 

Since our bodies digest proteins more slowly and won’t cause spikes in our blood sugar, a high protein snack before bed is best. If you are in need of a before bed snack, shake up a quick diabetes-friendly protein shake. Take a look at these 8 diabetes friendly protein shake recipes.

Regular Exercise (but, not before bed)

Harvard Medical School published an article on the importance of exercising with diabetes. It states, “Exercise helps control weight, lower blood pressure, lower harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, raise healthy HDL cholesterol, strengthen muscles and bones, reduce anxiety, and improve your general well-being. There are added benefits for people with diabetes: exercise lowers blood glucose levels and boosts your body's sensitivity to insulin, countering insulin resistance.”

We know that exercise stabilizes our moods, releasing endorphins and reducing depression and anxiety.  An aerobic workout that increases the heartbeat is our body’s natural mood regulator and could be our sleep regulator too! Sleep research shows that people who engage in moderate exercise have a longer deep sleep cycle, which is the most rejuvenating on our bodies and mind.  

There are differing opinions on when it is best to exercise if your goal is to get better sleep.  But most experts agree that before bed is the worst time. This is because how your body prepares to fall asleep and the opposite effect exercise has on this ritual. As our body preps for sleep, our heart rate and brain waves slow down and our body temperature cools slightly. In opposition when we exercise and increase our heart rates, our body temperature rises, heart rate and brain waves increase and some people get an increase in alertness, and energy. 

The consensus is, exercise is a must.  Many experts say 150 minutes/ week of aerobic exercise is when you receive the health benefits. But, give yourself at least 90 minutes before bed. This 90 minute rule also goes for our third must-do! 

90 Minute Warning!

Your body has a natural process for preparing itself for slumber. Creating an environment that signals to your body, it’s time for bed will help you to fall asleep quickly. About 90 minutes before bed you should turn off your technology, and dim the lights. Our bodies are very responsive to lighting and stimulations from screens.

If you have anxieties from your health or your life, now is the time to put those to bed too. Make a list of the things you need to do for tomorrow, or take a minute to journal before you go to bed. Unclutter your room to create a clean, comfortable and stress free space.  

You should always keep the lights down if you get up at night. If you’re someone who gets up during the night to use the restroom, set up soft lighting like a night light or have a little flashlight by bed for middle of the night bathroom trips.  

For this week, or even this month, try to create a consistent bedtime and wake up schedule, while incorporating our three tips. The more routine the schedule becomes the more routine your good nights of sleep will be. This Friday, March 19th let’s all try a healthy new recipe, get a workout in and start setting the mood for a restful night sleep 90 minutes ahead of time. Sweet dreams!