Quality Sleep Impacts Blood Sugar

Why improving your sleep habits may help you achieve better blood sugar control.

Medically reviewed in September 2021

Nothing feels more rejuvenating than a nice, deep sleep. But it turns out that quality sleep may also be pretty critical to controlling blood sugar.

Two separate sleep studies confirm it. In the studies, both the amount of sleep people got and the quality of their sleep had a significant impact on the risk of diabetes. In fact, quality sleep bestowed as much as a threefold drop in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Deep Sleep, Better Blood Sugar
Turns out that a particular kind of deep sleep—called slow-wave sleep (SWS)—may be essential to controlling blood sugar. When folks in a study were intentionally deprived of the deepest stages of SWS, they suffered a 25% drop in insulin sensitivity—a marker of the body's ability to convert blood sugar into energy. The light sleeping also caused a 23% drop in glucose tolerance, another risk factor for diabetes. So even if you get a proper 8 hours of ZZZs, it may not be doing your blood sugar any favors if it’s not quality sleep.

More Is Not Better
Staying in bed longer isn't an ideal solution to poor sleep either. Surprisingly, in another study, sleeping more than 8 hours a night actually increased diabetes risk threefold. Researchers think that overly long sleep may drop testosterone levels down to the point that it boosts weight gain, belly fat, insulin, and glucose levels -- all things that can raise a person's diabetes risk. So if you're tossing and turning, sleeping 10 hours instead of 8 isn't the way to go. You need to get rid of bedroom distractions, clear your head of those keep-me-up-at-night worries, and focus on getting quality sleep (6 to 8 hours) every night.

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