If You Have Diabetes and Struggle to Sleep at Night This Could Be Why

Published On: September 17, 2019

sleep and diabetes peripheral neuropathy.


Diabetes is a disease that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. This is also called hyperglycemia. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, prevents the body from using insulin properly.  This is called insulin resistance.


Insulin is a hormone — a chemical messenger — produced in one part of the body to have an action on another. It is a protein responsible for regulating blood glucose levels as part of metabolism. Insulin is manufactured in the pancreas. At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep the blood glucose at normal levels.

Sleep and Diabetes

For those with type 2 diabetes, sleep quality and fatigue generally go hand-in-hand. Recent research points to linking sleep apnea and diabetes, and symptoms of both disturb the natural progression of sleep stages throughout the night.

Sleep apnea is pauses in breathing interrupting the sleep stages, while a complication of diabetes sleep apnea and tingling of the feetdiabetes can be pain or numbness in the extremities can keep sleep at bay.

Those with diabetes can experience pain and/or numbness in their feet, legs, or hands from condition called peripheral neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage caused by chronically high blood sugar and diabetes that causes numbness, loss of sensation, and pain. It is the most common complication of diabetes, the risk of developing nerve damage can be reduced by keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.


CPAP and Oral Appliance Therapy

Treating sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or oral appliance therapy can assist those with pre-diabetes from moving forward to type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually found in childhood, and cannot be prevented. Every year in the United States, 13,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and more than 1 million American kids and adults deal with the disease every day.


Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy and Paying Attention to Signals

sleep apnea and peripheral neuropathy

What causes peripheral neuropathy? Chronically high blood sugar levels damage nerves not only in your extremities but also in other parts of your body. These damaged nerves cannot effectively carry messages between the brain and other parts of the body. Ignoring the signs of the neuropathy can worsen the condition over time.


Can treating sleep apnea lead to better blood glucose control?

There are definite advantages for diabetics to be treated for sleep apnea. Struggling for air may release stress hormones that can raise blood glucose levels. If you’re tired, you won’t want to take those stairs, or that walk around the block after lunch. While at work, you might keep snacking to stay awake.

Some data show that more than half of type 2 diabetes patients are referred for sleep studies. Treating apnea can immediately increase motivation. This leads to more stable blood glucose levels, thus CPAP becomes a tool in controlling diabetes.

Exercise and Lifestyle Changes

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating sensibly, exercising regularly, and – this can’t be stressed enough — absolutely treating sleep disorders.  Additionally, better glucose levels appearing after only one intervention – exercise – is a simple solution.

Many people with untreated sleep apnea feel chronic fatigue. So, even if a person is taking medication for diabetes, the untreated sleep apnea is still causing the body havoc, including the metabolism which is part of the diabetes enigma.


Excessive Sleep and Diabetes: The Pancreas, Non-Quality Sleep, and OSA

Because the body is not working properly in relation to insulin, often excessive sleep is reported by patients who are untreated. It seems that nature has provided some over-compensation in this regard. The need for more sleep is the body resting so all energy goes into helping the pancreas do its job. Couple this with a person that has untreated sleep apnea, and a vicious cycle is what happens.


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We have discussed how exercise and CPAP helps with high glucose levels. The extra physical activity helps with weight loss, and weight loss could improve sleep apnea plus improve glycemic levels.  Not having felt well for a while, and having all the testing procedures prior to treatment for diabetes and sleep apnea may have put a damper on mood and outlook. This may cause a person to become sedentary. We all know that sleep apnea patients have an already difficult time with having energy.

Inactivity not only keeps the heart rate low, it makes the joints stiff so that the slightest activity can cause distress. When starting out to increase physical activity, it is best to do some stresses before and after. Make it a goal to get up from the chair at (very) least every 90 minutes.



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