Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about why diabetics need to improve their sleep to fortify their immune system. One of the biggest problems with diabetes is that it can have many negative effects on your sleep. Its been estimated that at least 1/3 of all diabetics experience sleep problems as a result of their condition, ranging from things like restless leg to severe sleep apnea.
While not getting enough sleep is hard enough on its own, it can also harm your immune system and body, making you much more prone to illness. Sleep is incredibly important for your body in so many different ways.
Sleep is your body’s time for recovery, and while it may seem like youre resting, your body is actually very busy making repairs while you’re asleep. Many of these processes can only really be done during sleep, so if youre not getting enough, youre going to cut them off and leave yourself not fully restored.
For example, antibodies, T-cells, and certain kinds of cytokines are made by your body during sleep. All of these are important components of your immune system, so if you don’t get an ample amount of sleep so that your body can stock up on them, youre going to have a lowered immune system.
A weakened immune system won’t even be the worst of your problems if you’re not getting enough sleep. Studies have found that those who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and more.
If you have diabetes, it is likely that you struggle with more than 1 health issue, which means that you really don’t want to skimp out on sleep and make it worse. The problem is that while the issues caused by a lack of sleep are particularly harmful for diabetics, diabetics tend to struggle with sleep the most.
One of the most common things that prevents diabetics from getting enough sleep is sleep apnea, in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Obstructive sleep apnea, is the most common form that occurs when throat muscles relax, often resulting in snoring.
In order to improve your sleep, there are a couple of things that you can do. First, you should have a consistent bed time that you stick with, instead of changing the time you go to sleep each night. Second, if you have a particular condition that prevents your sleep, you talk to your doctor. If your condition is serious, your doctor can order a sleep study. This is a comprehensive test used to diagnose sleep disorders. In certain cases, it may be suggested that you look into certain devices that can help. For example, CPAP machines can help those with sleep apnea sleep soundly, and those with restless legs or arms can use a weighted blanket to prevent spasms.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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