When you’re not sleeping well, you may be able to get through the day on caffeine or sugar or whatever you trust to maintain your energy. But if you suffer from insomnia or any other condition that regularly interferes with your sleep, there may be worse consequences for your health than simple drowsiness.
“The longer you suffer from insomnia, the greater the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or a cardiovascular disease, “Saying Kaninika Verma, MD, OSF HealthCare clinical sleep director serving patients in central Illinois.
Your health at stake
With prolonged insomnia or other sleep problems, your body is under stress and releases stress hormones. These hormones are helpful for your fight or flight response to severe fear, a short-term need. But some stress hormones cause your liver to release glucose, and when this happens chronically, your body develops resistance to insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes.
Other hormones can affect your appetite, causing increased hunger, more eating, and weight gain, increasing your risk for heart disease and other serious health problems.
Type 2 diabetes is progressive, according to Sonia Gajula, MD, Endocrinologist at OSF Medical Group – Endocrinology and Diabetes in Peoria. It evolves over time. Her job as a physician is to stop that progression with a multidisciplinary approach that includes sleep health.
“A large part of our diabetes treatment focuses on lifestyle modification, and that should include sleep care,” Dr. Gajula said. “Patients with type 2 diabetes also tend to have sleep apnea. If you don’t sleep well, you may have trouble responding to diabetes treatment, and if you don’t regulate your sleep well, we won’t see good long-term results.
“If you are not getting the quality of sleep you need, you should speak with a sleep doctor,” Dr. Gajula added.
Take action to rest better
Adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, according to Dr. Verma, the sleep specialist. Your ability to sleep is actually a recognized indicator of your health.
“Sleep is essential for the functioning of our body,” said Dr. Verma. “We need to take care of our body as a whole, and sleep is the cornerstone of that whole process.”
If you have trouble sleeping, acknowledging it is the first step. Scheduling an appointment with a sleep doctor should be your second step.
In the meantime, you should try to find out why you are having trouble starting or staying asleep. Some people are just predisposed to having trouble sleeping. Some may have slept well until something happened in their life, causing a change in their ability to sleep. Others have habits or behaviors, such as afternoon naps or late caffeinated drinks, that make healthy sleep difficult.
What do you think is causing your sleeping problems? Take your theory and talk to a sleep doctor about it. There are many different approaches and a combination of approaches that professionals can help you use to improve your sleep, which should help you feel better and be healthier.
One thing you can do on your own is to help train your brain to sleep in your bedroom by removing electronic devices (smartphones, laptops, televisions) from the environment.
“Basically, we have invited everyone into our bedroom with all this technology,” said Dr. Verma. “Our mind has no limits, so now we have to learn to retrain our brain to set limits, so that it turns off when we go to bed.”
Find out if you may be at risk of developing sleep apnea with our online simple assessment tool.