Besides stress, I would say that the second most common complaint I hear from my diabetes clients is how they want to improve their sleep quality, but they don't know-how. Whether it's waking up with CGM alarms or a general feeling of sluggishness and brain fog, our sleep dramatically impacts whole-person health.
Sleep is a foundation on which all pillars of diabetes health rest - no pun intended. Inadequate sleep compromises the effectiveness of all essential health pillars like diet, exercise, mental health, and diabetes management. The leading causes of death in developed nations, heart disease, cancer, dementia, obesity, and diabetes, have causal links to sleeplessness (1).
The number one risk for people with diabetes is heart disease. In a 2011 study, tracking a half-million people from various ages and ethnicities from eight countries over 25 years, progressively shorter sleep increased the risk of developing or dying from heart disease by 45% (2).
In another study on non-diabetic individuals, participants were limited to four hours of sleep a night for six nights. By the end of the week, participants were 40% less effective at metabolizing glucose (3). For people with T1D, this might not seem relevant because we produce little, if any, insulin, but consider that insulin is insulin. The insulin you inject still is impacted by sleeplessness.
The primary mechanism behind sleep deprivation is a familiar perpetrator, the sympathetic nervous system. People with diabetes have less parasympathetic tone at night than non-diabetics, meaning we have a harder time turning off our nervous system's activation response (5). Left on for extended periods, and our nervous system becomes maladaptive, affecting every organ system in the body.
During sleep, our body regenerates the body and reorganizes the brain. Growth hormone - a great healer of the body because it replenishes the lining of our blood vessels - produced in deep sleep. During non-REM sleep, part of our sleep cycle, our brain sends calming signals to the sympathetic nervous system, preventing the type of stress responsible for insulin resistance, hypertension, and stroke (6).
There are many ways you can improve your sleep hygiene with yoga and lifestyle modifications. Here are my top 5:
(1) Walker, Matthew P. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. First Scribner hardcover edition, Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc, 2017, pp 164.
(2) Walker, Matthew P. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. First Scribner hardcover edition, Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc, 2017, pp 165.
(3) Walker, Matthew P. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. First Scribner hardcover edition, Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc, 2017, pp 171.
(4) Bernardi, L., et al. "Impaired Circadian Modulation of Sympathovagal Activity in Diabetes. A Possible Explanation for Altered Temporal Onset of Cardiovascular Disease." Circulation, vol. 86, no. 5, Nov. 1992, pp. 1443–52. ahajournals.org (Atypon), doi:10.1161/01.CIR.86.5.1443.
(5) Walker, Matthew P. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. First Scribner hardcover edition, Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc, 2017, pp 168.
A cooling practice just in time for the heat of the summer. This specialized pranayama and meditation combine the elemental forces of water with the physiologic response of the parasympathetic nervous system to refresh, calm and internalize your senses. If you're a Roaring Fork resident, join me this summer for the Complete Practice Pop-Up at King Yoga in Snowmass. The Complete Practice is a powerful mind-body program rooted in ancient tantric methodologies and adapted functional movement for the modern practitioner. It is for any earnest student curious about taking their yoga practice to the next level of energetic and spiritual advancement.
Evan Rachel Soroka