How many times have you compromised your bedtime to meet a strict deadline or binge-watch the latest season of your favorite TV show?

Sleep is a vital factor in our health and wellbeing, but is often overlooked. It might be tempting to skip out on your slumber, but did you know that missing your zzz’s could lead to higher levels of blood sugar over time?

In fact, researchers link a lack of sleep to a host of health problems, including an increased risk for obesity, heart disease, hypertension – and type 2 diabetes.

How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting?

To avoid higher blood sugar levels caused by sleep deprivation, it is very important to get enough shuteye each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 to 64 years old should aim for 7 to 9 hours per night, while older adults 65 and over should aim for 7 to 8.

High Blood Sugar and Sleep Deprivation: A Surprising Link

Sleep deprivation is a form of chronic stress on your body, and studies suggest sleep deprivation is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Added stress can lead to higher glucose levels over time. This is because your body releases stress hormones, like cortisol, during these periods, which can make cells more resistant to insulin and cause high blood sugar.

Consistent sleep deprivation can heighten your glucose levels over time – increasing your type 2 risk. Researchers also link sleep deprivation to a higher body weight, and obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Can Midnight Snacking Lead to Type 2 Diabetes?

Sleep deprivation can lead to overeating, which can also raise your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. We have two hormones in body that help regulate our appetite cues: leptin, which helps communicate when we’re full, and ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.

Research shows that sleep deprivation decreases levels of leptin and increases levels of ghrelin, which may cause you to overeat – and when it comes to midnight snacks, we tend to reach for convenient, calorie-rich snacks like fast food, chips, and candy.

These easy foods are sources of simple carbohydrates, which break down into glucose in our bloodstream. The more simple carbs you eat, the faster and higher your glucose tends to spike. Over time, your baseline blood sugar begins to rise – which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

How Can You Fall Asleep Faster?

Many factors can affect our ability to fall and stay asleep, from temperature and bed comfort to light exposure and what we eat and drink close to bedtime. If you’re having trouble getting to bed, try these evidence-based tips from Healthline.

  • Temperature can greatly affect your sleep quality – try to find the right climate for your slumber. If you’re too warm at night, try investing in bedside fans or cooling sheets. If you’re chilly, thick blankets, cozy pajamas, and new pillows may help.
  • Light can impact your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime – and blue light, which our phones, laptops, and other devices emit, exacerbates this effect. Avoid TV and turn off your bright lights at least 2 hours before bedtime. You can also install apps and accessories on your smartphone to limit blue light.
  • Persistent traffic noise in metropolitan areas can make it hard to get some shuteye. Invest in thick black-out curtains to help muffle the honks and headlights, or try listening to a white noise or meditation app with noise-cancelling headphones when you drift off.
  • A relaxing bath or shower before bed can help improve sleep quality as well. Wash up before bedtime – this might also extend your sleep time, since you don’t have to worry about showering in the morning.

Can Mental Health Impact Sleep Quality?

Sometimes, anxiety, stress, and depression can make it harder to get a good night’s rest – in fact, insomnia and oversleeping are common symptoms of clinical depression, and people with generalized anxiety disorder also experience difficulty falling and staying asleep. When you’re struggling with one or more of these issues, simply taking a bath or buying new curtains probably won’t help.

Plus, you might also be experiencing symptoms of a sleep disorder that can decrease the quality of your slumber, like sleep apnea or chronic insomnia. If you believe another medical condition could be the cause of your sleep deprivation, visit your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options.

Remember, being healthy isn’t limited to eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. Maintaining a consistent bedtime schedule and getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night is just as important. If you’re struggling with falling and staying asleep, talk to your doctor!

Sweet dreams!