By Virginia Gurley, MD, MPH

MB (Marc Braman, MD, MPH):
Our topic this session is “Sleep as Treatment for Diabetes – Appetite & Stress Management.” Welcome back, Dr. Gurley.

VG (Virginia Gurley, MD, MPH):
Thank you, Dr. Braman.

MB:
We’ve talked in other sessions about the importance of sleep for diabetes due to direct blood sugar control. Today, we want to look at other ways in which sleep is good medicine for people with diabetes. So, how else does getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep help control diabetes?

VG:
Well, as you know, one of the keys to well-controlled diabetes is following a dietary lifestyle that avoids simple carbohydrates, like sweets and snack foods, and also keeping body weight in a healthy range. And one of the biggest benefits of getting enough sleep is that good sleep lessens your appetite, and it especially lessens cravings for the simple carbohydrate foods that are so very harmful in diabetes.

MB:
That’s actually really cool that I can feel more satisfied from getting more sleep or better sleep and I don’t have to take those dangerous appetite suppressant medications. I can just enjoy quality sleep. That sounds like a great deal!

VG:
It is wonderful. And actually, there are others ways that getting enough sleep helps keep diabetes in better control. These benefits have to do with how sleep makes you less likely to get stressed out by life’s many little annoyances. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are much more likely to get angry or upset by small things. Then because you’re upset more easily, the body releases more of a stress hormone called cortisol.

MB:
So, I think we would all like a lot less stress in our lives, cortisol or not, but how does cortisol affect diabetes and blood sugar?

VG:
Good question! Cortisol is important for good health, but when there is too much of it, like when you’re easily annoyed because you’re not getting enough sleep, then that extra cortisol makes blood sugars stay too high. On the other hand, when you sleep 7-8 hours each night, your stress hormone levels stay in a healthy range, so your blood sugars are more likely to also stay in a healthy range. Plus, you get to feel more relaxed and at ease.

MB:
So, sleep really does have a lot of benefits for controlling diabetes.

VG:
Yeah, and wait, there’s another benefit – although people with diabetes are more likely to develop high blood pressure, getting enough sleep helps decrease the risk of high blood pressure. This is because getting enough sleep helps keep your nervous system in balance, so blood vessels can relax and keep blood pressure in a healthy range.

MB:
Wow, that sounds like a pretty easy “pill” to swallow! I get to enjoy sleep as treatment for unhealthy appetite and cravings and have less stress in the process of treating my diabetes. I think I could really like this lifestyle medicine stuff!
Thank you so much, Dr. Gurley.

VG:
Thank you, Dr. Braman.

The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. Nat Commun. 2013;4:2259. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3259.

Manipulating the circadian and sleep cycles to protect against metabolic disease. Nohara K, Yoo SH, Chen ZJ. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2015 Mar 23;6:35. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2015.00035. eCollection 2015. Review.

Virginia Gurley, MD, MPH

Dr. Gurley is Founder and President of AuraViva, a health education organization dedicated to increasing accessibility and efficacy of healthy lifestyle strategies. She has over 25 years experience designing and implementing health promotion and disease prevention programs and has served 15 years in physician executive positions. She is faculty at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and member of American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

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