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Poor sleep makes diabetes more difficult to control

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Insomnia and diabetes

A large study has found insomnia makes diabetes harder to control. Poor sleep causes higher levels of insulin resistance and higher blood sugar levels, found in a cross-sectional analysis of study participants taking part in the CARDIA heart study.

Researchers from University of Chicago Medical Center studied 40 diabetic patients who were part of the ongoing 20 year study. The participants were monitored for six nights to find the link between poor sleep and higher blood sugar levels in diabetics.

"Poor sleep quality in people with diabetes was associated with worse control of their blood glucose levels," said Kristen Knutson, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and lead author of the study. "People who have a hard time controlling their blood glucose levels have a greater risk of complications. They have a reduced quality of life. And, they have a reduced life expectancy.

The investigators measured glucose and insulin levels with blood tests. The study participants, who wore monitors to measure movement at night, reported whether they suffered from insomnia, sleep apnea or snoring.

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The study found morning blood sugar levels were 23 percent higher in diabetics with poor sleep quality and insulin levels were 43 percent higher than diabetics who sleep well. Insulin resistance was 82 percent higher for poor sleepers.

Knutson says the findings are important for helping diabetics control the disease. Treating insomnia and sleep apnea could improve health outcomes and reduce complications related to poor glucose control. "Anything that we can do to help people improve their ability to control their glucose will help their lives in the long run.”

Eve Van Cauter, PhD, professor of medicine and co-author of the study says treating sleep disorders that plague a large number of diabetics may be as beneficial as prescribing medications.

Past studies have linked insomnia to a higher chance of developing diabetes from increased insulin resistance. The new study shows diabetics who sleep poorly have a more difficult time controlling blood sugar levels, putting them at risk for complications and frequent hospitalization.

Diabetes Care: March 16, 2011, doi: 10.2337/dc10-1962
“Cross-Sectional Associations Between Measures of Sleep and Markers of Glucose Metabolism Among Subjects With and Without Diabetes”
Kristen L. Knutson, PHD,, Eve Van Cauter, PHD1, Phyllis Zee, MD, PHD, Kiang Liu, PHD and
Diane S. Lauderdale, PHD

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Author: Mikael Häggström



Is this information strictly for type 2 diabetes? My son is type 1, and it seems like when people refer to "diabetes", it is type 1. It would be nice if all articles designated which type they are talking about because there is a difference. If the article applies to both types, then please say so.
Hello - yes they are different. Here is the study conclusion, per the reference at the end of the article. Thank you for your question. "The observed association between poor sleep quality and higher glucose, insulin, and estimated insulin resistance among subjects with diabetes warrants further examination of the effect of sleep disturbances on glucose control in type 2 diabetes."