The Link Between Sleep and Diabetes


Most people know about the connection between food intake and developing type 2 diabetes, which is why most treatments for reversing type 2 diabetes focus on better diet management supplemented with exercise. However, the causes of type 2 diabetes are much more complex than scientists previously thought.

Recent research has shown that there is a link between sleep disorders and type 2 diabetes. Sleep disorders increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as associated conditions such as depression and heart disease. In turn, treating sleep disorders helps reverse type 2 diabetes, but many diabetes treatment programs still do not consider this factor.

When looking for type 2 diabetes treatment in Australia, ask your doctors if the treatment centres screen or treat sleep disorders as an underlying factor of type 2 diabetes.

Sleep Disorders and Causing Type 2 Diabetes

Scientists have found that certain sleep disorders, such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnoea, and restless leg syndrome, are more common in people with type 2 diabetes than in the rest of the population. Research indicates that this is not just correlation but that sleep problems could cause a person to develop type 2 diabetes in the first place.

Not getting enough sleep or not getting enough high-quality sleep that leaves a person feeling well rested in the morning affects more than just a person’s energy levels. Lack of sleep leads to problems with metabolising glucose, which in turn increases a person’s risk of becoming overweight or developing glucose-related problems such as type 2 diabetes.

Both sleep quality and sleep length are important in determining someone’s risk factor for type 2 diabetes. People who got less than five hours of sleep per night were 48% more likely to get type 2 diabetes than someone that got closer to eight hours of sleep a night. Sleep disorders that affect the quality of sleep, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, make a patient’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes almost skyrocket.

Why Is It Important to Address the Link Between Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep Disorders?

Most clinics administering type 2 diabetes treatment in Australia do not ask patients about sleep problems. This is not due to negligence; the research linking the two health problems is still very new and many doctors may be unsure about how to incorporate this new knowledge into their practice.

However, treating underlying sleep disorders can be crucial in helping type 2 diabetes patients manage their condition. Sleep disorders are linked to a higher risk of long-term health complications often associated with type 2 diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy, and diabetic kidney disease. The overall risk of dying from diabetes-related complications increases drastically for patients with sleep disorders.

Identifying and treating sleep disorders can help improve long-term care prospects for type 2 diabetes patients, ensuring that the condition is a manageable one instead of a deadly one. It can also improve the overall well-being of people with insomnia, sleep apnoea, or other sleep disorders. A lack of sleep is linked to a number of physical and mental health problems, including higher risks of mental illness such as depression. More comprehensive medicine addressing sleep issues can improve a patient’s quality of life.

Can Treating Sleep Disorders Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

If sleep disorders increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, then can treating sleep disorders in turn reverse type 2 diabetes?

Unfortunately, the research is not as conclusive about the treatments for the interlinked health problems of type 2 diabetes and sleep disorders as it is about their intertwined causes. Some drugs that treat sleep disorders — for example, dopamine agonists that are prescribed for restless leg syndrome — are also linked to a drop in haemoglobin A1C, a test that identifies a person’s risk of diabetes.

Other sleep disorder treatments, such as CPAP machines for apnoea, are not as conclusively linked to better blood sugar levels. There is no definitive answer yet on whether treating any sleep problems can also reverse type 2 diabetes.

However, treating underlying factors that cause both conditions could lead to a reversal in type 2 diabetes and better sleep. For example, obesity is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea. Patients who underwent comprehensive weight loss treatment often reversed their diabetes and reported better sleep.

Addressing The Link For Improved Patient Outcomes

While most treatments focus on improving diet, there is another lifestyle factor linked to developing type 2 diabetes that is often ignored — sleep. Poor-quality sleep and not enough sleep increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and complications associated with that chronic condition, including kidney disease and eye disease.

Although the causes have been well linked, it still isn’t clear if treating sleep disorders will help reverse type 2 diabetes. However, the two conditions should be addressed in tandem to improve patient health outcomes and quality of life.

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