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Type 1 diabetes can result in a night of rollercoaster blood sugars, but better nutrition and a healthy diet can help you sleep better when managing your Diabetes.

In my youth, I certainly took sleep for granted.  During off-season weekends, I would happily stay up late and sleep in until almost noon.  Though the late nights have followed me into adulthood, they are now accompanied by early mornings with kids. And even though I could simply choose to go to bed earlier, adhering to a set bedtime wouldn’t completely resolve my sleep problems. Nutrition, as it turns out, may play a big role in improving your night’s rest.

Below we’ll describe the what, when, how, and why of nutrition for the best sleep, and how people with type 1 diabetes can benefit as well.

sleep and diabetes

For adults, getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep (9-13 hours for children) is an important component of maintaining overall health.

One all-nighter is all it takes to understand how poor sleep can affect us mentally and physically the next day. Giving the body proper nutrition during the day and especially in the evening can make a significant impact on how well we sleep at night. However, it is essential to note that the reverse is true as well. Getting a lousy night’s sleep could also lead to hormone imbalances that encourage people to reach for more high-fat and high-sugar foods, and to eat more in general.

eating at night diabetes

The National Sleep Foundation recommends eating your last meal of the day 2-3 hours before bedtime, as many foods and beverages can have lasting effects on the body.

For example, caffeine and alcohol consumed late at night can prevent or disrupt sleep, respectfully. Additionally, eating a high-sugar but low-fiber snack like cookies or ice cream before bed can lead to sudden spikes and subsequent drops in blood sugar, which may disturb a restful slumber as well.

eat balanced meals diabetesEating a balanced dinner with enough lean protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and healthy fats is a great start to improving sleep through nutrition.

A meal made with these components will help you feel full longer, while also avoiding sharp rises and falls in blood sugar. Within your dinner or evening snack, it is suggested to incorporate foods with tryptophan, such as milk, eggs, fish, green leafy vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid necessary for many body processes. If consumed with carbohydrates, the body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, which is then used to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep.  Similarly, B vitamins like vitamin B12 and B6 also play a role in melatonin secretion and serotonin production and can be found in animal products, as well as starchy vegetables, non-citrus fruits, and fortified cereals.

cell regeneration and better sleep with diabetesPoor sleep prevents the body from performing necessary processes like storing memories, repairing cells and tissues, and strengthening the immune system.

Consistently getting low-quality sleep increases the risk of many preventable illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. However, those with type 1 diabetes may feel additional effects from inadequate sleep. Studies have shown that insufficient rest may contribute to higher HbA1c’s, an increased risk of diabetes complications, and poorer diabetes management overall.  As noted earlier, sleep deprivation may promote greater appetites and decrease willpower to avoid unhealthy foods. For someone with type 1 diabetes, this may translate into a stressful day and night of rollercoaster blood sugars. This is unfortunately cyclical, as frequent hypos and hyperglycemia while sleeping can then impact glucose control the following day.

Navigating the relationship between nutrition, sleep patterns, and diabetes can be challenging. With so much to consider, we encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider or one of the clinicians at Integrated Diabetes Services to discuss your options.

Article by IDS Intern, Krystal Bosenbark, MPH, MS

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