When researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health looked at the sleep habits of more than 130,000 U.S. women, they found that those with the most sleep problems (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, snoring, sleep apnea, getting less than 6 hours of sleep) had a four time greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with none of the problems. The results of their study was published in the January 28th issue of the journal Diabetologia.

A summary of the research is at:

https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_156950.html

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An abstract of the article is at:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-015-3860-9

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Sleep is part of the 24 hour cycle or Circadian rhythm that regulates all of our bodily functions, including the release of hormones necessary for the regulation of blood sugar. As the researchers of the study point out, when sleep problems interrupt this rhythm the hormones (glucagon, epinephrine, growth hormone and cortisol) that work in tandem with insulin to regulate blood sugar, get out of sync. It is this loss of rhythm that may be a cause of not only the increased risk of diabetes they found in the study, but also of obesity.

Bottom line – we need to view sleep as a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle and perhaps a way to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. If you have difficulty sleeping and have tried all of the usual tips (below) and still don’t sleep, it may be time for an appointment with a sleep specialist.

Tips for a good night sleep:

Develop a soothing bedtime ritual to wind down from the day.
Keep your room cool, between 60 - 670
Keep your room dark or wear an eye mask
Turn off the computer and any other back lit device an hour before bed.
Read in bed, don’t watch TV or surf the net.
Set a bedtime and wake time that gives you between 6-8 hours of sleep.
If you wake during the night, try muscle relaxation or deep breathing to lull you back to sleep.
Keep paper and a pencil handy to jot down those thoughts that maybe causing you worry and keeping you awake, then let them go.

Eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
 

For more information:

National Sleep Foundation https://sleepfoundation.org/

American Sleep Association https://www.sleepassociation.org/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/resources.html

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Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal health education specialist at Associates for Health Education and Behavior in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. For more information please see www.associatesforhealth.com  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her at joanna@associatesforhealth.com