Sleep Down Your Blood Sugar

As a diabetic, you probably already know how important it is to eat right, exercise, and take your meds. Here’s something you may not know about controlling blood sugar: Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining normal blood sugar levels.

Get less than 6 hours on most nights and you're 3 times more likely to have elevated blood sugar levels, according to recent research published in the Annals of Epidemiology. Even just one sleepless night can interfere with your body's ability to use insulin (and therefore regulate glucose), according to Dutch researchers.

Too little sleep also leads to more weight gain: In a national survey of 87,000 people, one-third of participants who slept less than 6 hours were obese. And when researchers at Columbia University analyzed 20 years' worth of data on more than 68,000 women, they found that those who got 5 hours or less weighed about 5 pounds more and were 15% more likely to become obese than those who slept 7 hours.

Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours a night, yet one in five Americans regularly sleeps less than 6 hours, and nearly 70% of women report frequent sleep troubles, according to national polls. The best strategy to improve sleep, according to experts: Hit the sack and set your morning alarm for the same time every day (even on weekends)--maintaining a consistent sleep schedule keeps your biological clock in sync so you rest better. Here are nine more tips to help you sleep well and stay healthy:

Skip Starbucks after lunch
The caffeine from your favorite latte can stay in your system for about 8 hours; even if you can fall asleep, you may not be resting soundly. Alcohol has the same effect: Though sipping a glass or two of red wine may make you drowsy, a few hours later, the alcohol levels in your blood start to drop, which signals your body to wake up. That's not conducive to controlling diabetes; 3 nights of disturbed sleep can lead to a 23% increase in blood sugar levels, according to study conducted at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Exercise regularly, but within 4 hours of bedtime
Working out helps you lower your blood sugar, lose weight, and sleep better--all good for your health. Exercise also keeps your body temperature elevated for hours--not so good for getting to sleep. When your body begins to cool down, however, it signals the brain to release melatonin, a hormone that induces slumber. Finish your workout about 3 to 4 hours before bedtime; late afternoon exercise is the best time for deeper sleep.
Avoid late-night meals

Finish dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before you lie down, and limit evening snacks to about 200 calories or less. Too much food too close to bedtime can make you feel uncomfortable and keep you awake. And too little rest can make you eat more: Studies show that sleep deprivation raises levels of ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates your urge to eat) and lowers leptin (which tells your brain you're full)--a bad combo that prompts an increase in appetite, a preference for carbohydrates, and potential weight gain.
Unwind before bed

You watch the evening news while paying bills and check work e-mail on your way to bed--and you wonder why you're all wound up when your head finally hits the pillow. Instead, establish a relaxing bedtime routine to help your body transition from active and anxious to calm and drowsy so you fall asleep faster. Try taking a warm bath or hot shower--it'll help relieve muscle tension and temporarily raise body temperature. Afterward, as your body cools, it cues sleep. You can also read a book, listen to soothing music, or practice deep breathing.

Hit the lights
Bright light signals your brain to wake up, so near bedtime, skip the overheads and opt for nightstand lamps with 40- to 60-watt bulbs instead. When you're ready to turn in, go for blackout conditions--shut down the laptop, move the charging cell phone into another room, and flip the digital clock around. The glow from your electronics is enough to delay the release of sleep-promoting melatonin. If you need a night-light, equip it with a 7-watt incandescent bulb.

Make some (white) noise
Some people can sleep through anything--a barking dog, an annoyingly loud TV in the next room, even the screech of a siren. Others are not so blessed and find themselves tossing at every creak and turning at each unfamiliar bump. Leave the fan on (the whoosh may lull you to rest), pop in a nature sounds CD, or get a sound machine--those designed for sleep produce low-level soothing sounds to drown out unwanted noise. Hanging heavy drapes in the bedroom may also help absorb slumber-disturbing sounds from outside.
Prop your pillows

Nine out of ten Americans believe comfy pillows and a supportive mattress are key to getting a good night's sleep, according to a new National Sleep Foundation poll--and experts agree. The goal is to keep your spine and neck in a straight line to avoid tension or cramps; if your head is flexed back or raised up, get a pillow that puts you in a better position. To ease back and neck pain, back sleepers should tuck an extra pillow under the knees and a small one under the lower back; side sleepers will want a flat pillow between their knees; stomach snoozers should stick one under their hips. Supportive mattresses are important as well--if yours is 9 or 10 years old, it may be time to shop for a new one.

Scent the sheets
Seventy-one percent of Americans say they sleep better on sheets with a fresh scent, but who has time to wash and change them every day? Instead, mix a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oils and water in a spray bottle and give the sheets a quick spritz--research shows that those two scents help induce sleep.

Lower the temperature
Did you know that in most cases, if the temperature in your bedroom rises above 75ºF or falls below 54ºF while you are sleeping, you might wake up? Experts typically recommend setting the thermostat between 60 and 70º--while scientists haven't pinpointed an ideal temp for sleep, they agree that slightly cooler is most conducive to better rest.

Similar Threads: