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Rethinking Sleep

Tips for better slumber when living with diabetes

Hit the farmer’s market. Hit the gym. Hit the… hay? Like most of my clients, you probably plan for healthful eating and regular exercise. But what about sleep? Food, activity and sleep each impact our wellbeing, yet some people may still think of sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity.

Sleep is vital for both mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation can interfere with self-control, as well as our ability to make decisions and solve problems, and it has been linked to depression and other mental health issues, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Lack of sleep may also wreak havoc on our bodies. Experts say it may increase the risk of obesity and may impair our bodies’ defenses against infection, for example.

For even the most dedicated person, sleepiness may reduce motivation to cook or take a walk. And if you’re the kind of person who may get a bit grumpy when sleepy (like I am), everyday stressors may become much harder to handle.

Tips for getting better sleep

If sound slumber is just your dream and not your reality, read on for some of my tips and techniques for better sleep.

Stick to a regular schedule

According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting to bed and waking up at the same times each day of the week may be your most important sleep habit.

Establish a relaxing bedtime routine

My favorite way to end my evening is with a cup of decaf tea. You might like soaking in a relaxing bath, reading a book, chatting with your spouse, listening to soothing music, spending time in meditation or prayer, or practicing yoga. Follow the same routine each night to prepare yourself for sleep.

Avoid stimulants & alcohol

I recommend a few hours before bedtime avoiding stimulants like caffeine, which can be found in coffee, certain teas and chocolate. If you choose to drink alcohol, be aware that its effects may be deceptive; while it may make a person sleepy initially, it may wake them up later in the night. (Read more on what you should know before drinking alcohol if you live with diabetes and discuss it with your diabetes care team.)

Consider an earlier dinner

Don’t let an active or noisy stomach steal your sleep. Give your body a chance to digest your meal.

Turn the off lights, TV, and computer

 Television viewing right before bed may hinder quality sleep, especially if the shows are violent or agitating, says the National Sleep Foundation. Too much light of any kind may prevent a good night’s sleep. Light stimulates a part of the brain involved in controlling body temperature and the release of hormones including cortisol and melatonin, which affect our feelings of sleepiness or wakefulness. If you wake in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, avoid turning on bright lights. Instead, use a low illumination nightlight.

Get outside regularly

Nurture your body’s natural circadian rhythms by spending time in the sunlight each day. If you don’t want to wake up with the sun, draw blackout curtains to block its early morning rays from entering your bedroom. If you work shifts, consider using a light box or light visor to supplement your exposure to natural light.

Exercise regularly

Research shows that regular exercise is linked to both longer sleep and better sleep quality.

Stay cool

A hot room may cause you to sleep lightly and wake frequently. (Read more tips about creating a tranquil sleep space.)


Too much or unpleasant noise may have you tossing and turning. Use earplugs to block out your partner’s snoring or your neighbor’s music. If they aren’t enough, try blocking noise with a fan or look into buying a white noise machine.

Check your blood sugar

If you’re waking frequently to use the bathroom, high blood sugar may be the culprit. Low blood sugar may also disturb slumber with fitful sleep or nightmares. Nighttime low blood sugar can be very serious. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help controlling your blood sugar.

Put yourself back to sleep

Instead of watching the clock and fretting about not sleeping, try relaxation or breathing exercises. If these don’t work, get up, and try another relaxing activity, such as listening to music or reading until you feel sleepy again.

Don’t suffer from disturbed sleep or daytime sleepiness. If your problem is ongoing, seek help from your healthcare team.

Sleep well!

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, and the upcoming The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition, as well as contributing editor at Environmental Nutrition. She has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

 © 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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