Type 2 Diabetes & Sleep Are Linked — Especially in Postmenopausal Women

Most sleep issues are treatable by your doctor.

By Brittany Leitner, Michael Bohl
woman napping

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A major symptom of Type 2 diabetes is having the urge to run to the bathroom more than usual, but frequent urination can affect your life in more ways than one. Of course it’s annoying to have to know where the closest restroom is at all times, but this problem can carry over into the nighttime, causing sleep disruptions – especially when diabetes is poorly controlled. The link between diabetes and sleep has long been demonstrated, but research typically looks at how issues with sleep can be a risk factor for diabetes. Now, a new study looks at things the other way around, and sheds light on whether diabetes can be the cause sleep problems. 

An Aug. 14, 2019 study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) looked to gain clarity whether or not diabetes led to sleep problems in the midlife period. Looking at women who were already known to have diabetes, the study found that they did indeed report more sleep disturbances than those without diabetes. This suggests that diabetes is somehow impacting their sleep, which should be a major point of concern for patients and health professionals alike. Poor sleep is linked to a number of additional health problems, including asthma, depression, heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and stroke.

There are several ways healthcare professionals believe sleep can be a risk factor for diabetes. First, people who have insomnia or who otherwise stay up late at night may engage in late-night snacking, which can lead to obesity. Additionally, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a risk factor for diabetes, since those with OSA may be overweight and may also have changes in how their bodies process blood sugar and insulin. Shorter sleep duration may lead to diabetes because of hormonal changes in the body. Interestingly enough, longer sleep duration has also been linked to diabetes, perhaps due to poor sleep quality.

The study was conducted via two Internet surveys and questioned 164 participants. Sixty-two women with Type 2 diabetes and 102 women without diabetes responded. The women answered questions about health status, menopause status, and their sleep habits and disturbances. Outside of this study, “about 42 percent of premenopausal and 60 percent of postmenopausal women reportedly have sleep disturbances,” reports Science Daily.  This is suspected to be due to the symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes.

The survey published in Menopause studied white, black, Asian, and Hispanic women, and found that sleep-related issues were much more numerous and severe in women with Type 2 diabetes than without. Asian women and women with Type 2 diabetes who had gone through menopause had it even worse, based on their reported number of sleep disturbances. “This study suggests worse sleep-related symptoms in postmenopausal Asian women with Type 2 diabetes compared with those without diabetes," Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, told Science Daily.

More studies need to be done to calculate the actual reason behind the findings. It’s possible that diabetes may be responsible for additional symptoms on top of those from menopause, which could lead to troubled sleep. Regardless of further testing, the study makes it clear that women suffering from diabetes should pay attention to how their daily and nightly habits are changing as they age. If you have prolonged periods of time where your sleep is constantly interrupted, see your doctor to diagnose issues such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and other treatable sleep-related issues. Your doctor may be able to provide you some relief. And while everybody’s sleep needs are different, aim to get at least seven hours a night. Sleep is a cornerstone of health, so it should never be ignored if it’s causing issues.

Related:

Reducing Carbs & Upping Protein May Help Regulate Blood Sugar, According to a New Study

Article written by Brittany Leitner

Article written by Michael Bohl