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By: Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT on November 20th, 2015

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Diabetes and Sleep: Considerations For Sleep Technologists

Sleep Technologist Advice

diabetes and sleep

It's National Diabetes Month! Did you know that diabetes patients often don't sleep well?

Diabetes and sleep problems often go hand in hand. One of the side effects of diabetes may be sleep loss, and not sleeping well can increase your risk of developing diabetes. 

Because sleep can affect your blood sugar levels and your blood glucose control many problems can arise while you are sleeping. 

Many patients with diabetes complain of poor quality sleep, which can be a result of sleep apnea, pain or discomfort, restless legs syndrome and frequent wakings at night to go to the bathroom, among other problems.

Lethargy and insomnia can both have their roots in blood sugar control and this can be a key in re-establishing a healthy sleep pattern. Here is how what you should recommend to your diabetes patients on establishing a better sleep habit:

Tips for diabetes patients on getting a good night's sleep

  • Keep your blood glycose level under control. Having a high blood sugar level can disrupt sleep through the need for frequent urination
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable
  •  Incorporate a period of exercise into your day

In fact, many of the tips you should share with your patient can be found on our tips to those who have difficulty falling asleep, regardless of cause of sleep loss. 

How you can help diabetic patients sleep better

Understanding that diabetic patients often have comorbidities that affect their sleep patterns is essential to successful evaluation and subsequent treatment of sleep disorders in this population.

The differential diagnosis should include sleep disruptions caused by a combination of comorbid conditions, including obesity and chronic pain associated with peripheral neuropathy, and sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing, and restless legs syndrome/periodic limb movements. Consider asking your patients the following questions about their sleep history:

  1. Do you have difficulty falling or staying asleep?
  2. Are you excessively sleepy during the day or do you fall asleep when you don't want to?
  3. Do you snore or have you been told that you snore loudly?
  4. Do you gasp for air or have you been told that you stop breathing during sleep?
  5. Do you experience uncomfortable sensations in the legs in the evening that are relieved by movement?
  6. Are you a restless sleeper or have you been told that you kick during sleep?

Getting your patient to meet sleep management goals

Successful management of sleep disorders often requires a multifaceted approach that not only provides relief of symptoms, but also treatment of the common comorbid conditions. Some approaches include:

  • If a patient also has obstructive sleep apnea, include weight loss and CPAP therapy as part of your medical management recommendation to the patient. Keep in mind that effective treatment of sleep apnea can improve the quality of life for diabetic patients.
  • If a patient has restless legs syndrome, include evaluation for sources of iron loss and iron replacement as part of the therapy routine.
  • Include behavioral management as part of the treatment approach, especially if patient is suffering from insomnia. Adherence to good sleep hygiene and cognitive behavioral therapy can correct many of the causes of insomnia seen in the diabetic patient.

Improving the sleep quality of the diabetic patient can improve the quality of their life

Keep in mind that helping patients reduce the number of sleep disturbances caused by sleep disordered breathing, pain, restless legs syndrome, insomnia and other lifestyle factors can significantly improve mood and quality of life for these patients. 

Because poor sleep quality in these patients is often caused by several different comorbidities, we recommend that you take a multifaceted approach in treating these patients. 

Treatment of these common sleep disorders and education regarding healthy sleep behaviors can improve the health and quality of life of patients with diabetes. 

To honor national diabetes month, make an effort to educate those around you about the interconnected relationship between sleep and diabetes.

Want to learn more about the common traits the best sleep technologists have in common? Read our article on the traits sleep technologists need to improve their relationships with patients.

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About Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT

Because of the implementation of his best practices of Implementing Inbound Marketing in its Medical Practice, he turned the once stagnant online presence of Alaska Sleep Clinic to that of "The Most Trafficked Sleep Center Website in the World" in just 18 months time. He is the President and CEO of inboundMed and enjoys helping sleep centers across the globe grow their business through his unique vision and experience of over 27 years in sleep medicine.

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