We know that sleep is very important for good health. A new study has found that those who don’t get enough sleep at night are more at risk for serious health risks like heart attack, stroke, and cancer. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, there may be reasons which a doctor can treat or that can be alleviated with lifestyle changes.
The new study from the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that for middle-aged adults with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease, getting less than 6 hours of sleep could have deadly outcomes.
Researchers studied 1,600 adults with a median age of 47. Those who got less than 6 hours of sleep at night were twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke. Getting less sleep also led to a higher chance of cancer due to inflammation.
There was a group of healthy short sleepers who did not have a higher risk for developing these conditions. Some people naturally need less sleep, and lack of sleep may not lead to health problems in this group.
Other studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can raise the risk of Alzheimer’s and heart attack.
Sleep problems associated with diabetes
Common reasons you may be having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep are the following:
- Obstructive sleep apnea – Those with sleep apnea experience breathing pauses during sleep. You may have this disorder and not even know it. Those with type 2 have a 50/50 chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea. Loud snoring, gasping, choking, waking up due to pauses in breathing, chronic fatigue, and difficulty controlling blood pressure and blood sugar are symptoms. The drop in oxygen levels due to stops in breathing can cause stress on the heart and other parts of the body. You may need to undergo a sleep study or complete a home sleep evaluation to see if you have OSA.
- Restless Leg Syndrome occurs when you feel twitchy or unusual feelings in legs and arms at night. To reduce these symptoms, cut back on caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, move around, stretch, and avoid medicines that may worsen the symptoms.
- Peripheral neuropathy – Over time, diabetes can affect the nerves and cause tingling or pain in the hands and feet. Possible treatments include capsaicin cream. Talk with your doctor if you think you have neuropathy.
- Blood Glucose Highs and Lows – Fluctuations in glucose levels can affect sleep in many ways. If levels are high, you may have to use the bathroom a lot as you might be very thirsty. If low, you can feel shaky, nervous, or confused, and should take a glucose table or drink juice. Talk to your doctor about managing your blood glucose.
- Depression, Anxiety, and Stress can all be related, and lack of sleep can worsen these symptoms. Sleep apnea is also closely related to depression. Treating sleep apnea, taking time for yourself to do things you love, and talking to a counselor can help manage stress.
What you can do
If you aren’t getting enough sleep or are having sleep problems with diabetes, talk with your doctor about seeing a sleep specialist. There are steps you can take to get better sleep and alleviate diabetes complications, such as:
- Going to sleep and waking up around the same time every day
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol
- Exercising daily
- Eating a light and healthy dinner
- Limiting your exposure to bright lights and light from electronics before bedtime
- Getting checked to see if you have a Vitamin D deficiency, and if so talk with your doctor about supplements