Sleeping better for people living with diabetes: Tips for your body and mind.
Sleep is a fundamental need for the body. It affects emotional well-being, cognitive function, daytime performance and physical health. Poor sleep quality can influence weight, appetite and mental health, and has been associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease risk. It can also affect your body's sensitivity to insulin1.
For most adults, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is optimal, whereas a child can require between 8 and 15 hours of sleep each day1. If you aren't getting the sleep you need, some causes may be caffeine or alcohol consumption, diet, electronic media exposure, cigarettes, bright lights during night hours, stress or sleep timing1.
Many things can affect the quality of your sleep. Here are a few to consider.
Arrange your sleeping environment
Create an environment that's more conducive to a good night's sleep. For example, try not to have it too warm in the room. A temperature of 16-19°C is considered optimal2. In addition:
Choose a blanket and pajamas, depending on the season;
Set heat on a timer or leave a window slightly open;
Try using earplugs to reduce noise;
Wear a sleep mask or use room-darkening curtains to keep the light out;
Invest in quality pillows and a mattress or mattress topper.
It's also a good idea to cut down stimuli in your sleep environment. Phones, computers and TVs release blue light that suppresses melatonin production interferes with sleep3. To reduce exposure to blue light (and temptation to look at screens):
Remove TVs and phones from the bedroom to create a relaxing environment;
Limit use of these devices two hours before bed;
Reduce exposure by using the blue light filter or the night mode on your devices.
Drinking alcohol interrupts the body's natural sleeping and waking rhythms, blocks deep sleep cycles and is a diuretic, which leads to frequent toilet trips overnight4. To reduce the impact of alcohol on the quality of your sleep, avoid alcohol a few hours before bed and reduce your overall alcohol consumption.
Schedule physical activity
Physical activity is important for your health and your well-being, and people who exercise regularly often experience better sleep quality than others1. However, if you can, try keeping physical activity to daytime or early evening so the increase in your heart rate, your body temperature and your adrenaline don't disrupt your sleep. If you exercise close to your bed time, try a calming activity such as yoga.
Choose sleep-friendly foods
A healthy balanced diet provides essential nutrients that promote sleep. In addition, foods rich in tryptophan, vitamin B6 and magnesium may also contribute to better sleep quality5. All three can be found in many foods, including eggs, salmon, spinach, some nuts and seeds, and you can get tryptophan and B6 from turkey and milk products.
You may also want to avoid:
Spicy, high-fat meals before bed if they cause indigestion or acid reflux;
Diuretic foods, such as watermelon and celery, or drinks such as tea, coffee or alcohol, that can cause frequent overnight toilet trips;
Caffeinated tea, coffee, energy drinks or chocolate after mid-day. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and it takes approximately 6 hours for half of the caffeine consumed to be removed from the body.
A light snack, rich in sleep-promoting nutrients can be a good choice if you're hungry before bed. Try a bowl of low-sugar cereal and milk, cheese and wholemeal crackers or peanut butter on toast.
Create a routine
Help regulate your body clock by creating a sleep-welcoming routine. Choose a similar time to go to bed each night and awake each morning, and create a relaxing ritual such as a quiet bath with magnesium-rich Epsom salts, lighting a lavender-scented candle, listening to soothing music, reading or meditating before bed.
Acknowledge stress and anxiety
If you find that worries keep you awake, meditation or breathing exercises may help you relax. Keeping a journal next to the bed can help you offload your to-do list to paper, so it stops swirling in the background. Or talk to your healthcare professional about working with a therapist to address the sources of your anxiety.
When you wake up, take notes on what worked and what didn't as you get closer to your goal of becoming a great sleeper.
Good luck and sleep tight!
Guest article by Caroline Holland, dietitian and health coach
Caroline is a registered dietitian with a degree in BSc (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics and further qualifications in neurolinguistic programming and masters-level behaviour change skills in the UK. She is currently participating in a mindfulness course. She has practiced as a dietitian in both the community and acute services and Roche Diabetes Care health coach.
1Golem D, Martin-Biggers J, Koenings M, et al. An integrative review of sleep for nutrition professionals. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(6);742-759. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224209/. Accessed August 5 2021.
2Sleep.org (2021). The ideal temperature for sleep. Retrieved from: https://www.sleep.org/articles/temperature-for-sleep/. Accessed August 5 2021.
3Harvard Health Publishing (2020). Blue light has a dark side. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side. Accessed August 5 2021.
4Psychology Today (2018). Alcohol and sleep: What you need to know. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/sleep-newzzz/201801/alcohol-and-.... Accessed August 5 2021.
5Psychology Today (2011). How to treat insomnia naturally. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/owning-pink/201106/how-treat-ins.... Accessed August 5 2021.
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