ZZZ's for an A+: Sleep as Your Silent Tool for Diabetes Prevention

February 21, 2024


Why Do We Need Sleep?

Brain health: memory and mood
Tissue repair: including muscle repair and growth
Weight control
Immune response
Chronic condition prevention and management
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Sleep Recommendations and Actual Amounts

Most adults should get 7-9 hours per night
Actual amounts are often inadequate.
  • Average is about 7 hours
  • About ⅓ of adults get inadequate sleep
  • Americans are reporting less sleep than a decade ago
Sleep needs can be higher for athletes or if you’re ill

Effects of Low Sleep

Reduced muscle repair and greater injury risk
Blood Sugar
  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Greater blood sugar swings
  • Increased hunger from higher ghrelin
  • Decreased satiety from lower leptin
  • More waking hours and time to eat
  • Poorer judgment with food choices

Sleep Hygiene

For better quality sleep

Ideal Sleep Environment

  • Cool sleep temperature 
  • Dark room
  • Comfortable bed, mattress, and pillows
  • Quiet room or with white noise (fan or noise machine)

When is bedtime? 

  • Name your waking time
  • Count back 7 to 9 hours before that
  • That’s your bedtime!
  • Start your bedtime routine 30-60 minutes before bedtime

Bedtime Routine

Purpose: improve sleep quality by preparing the mind and body for sleep
Basic principles
  • 30-60 minutes before bedtime
  • Consistent every night
  • Shut off screens early in your bedtime routine
Include what works for you. It might be:
  • Brushing teeth and changing into night clothes
  • Taking a bath or doing aromatherapy
  • Stretching or meditating
  • Reading or listening to music
Tips for falling asleep
  • Relax
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Putting stress into “buckets” or categories to manage tomorrow or another time
  • Thinking about how comfortable you are

Nutrition for Better Sleep

Avoid alcohol at dinner
Avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime
  • Emphasize high-fiber carbohydrates
  • Limit sugar and refined carbohydrates
Moderate protein
Heart-healthy fats
  • Limit saturated fat
  • Choose unsaturated fat sources

Health Coach Q & A

How do you get decent sleep being a caregiver to an elderly parent?

That’s a great question! Whether you’re giving care to an elderly parent, a baby, or to older adults and younger children, being a caregiver can be some of the most grueling and important work we do. It can also be work that gets in the way of regular, uninterrupted sleep at night.

Here’s a way to approach this.

  • Think about how much sleep you need each night, say, 8 hours. 
  • Think about how much time you spend at night getting up to give care. So, if you normally get up 4 times for 30 minutes each, consider that two hours. 
  • Add those two together to get the amount of time you’d need to dedicate to being in bed to get adequate sleep. In this example, we’d aim for 8 hours plus 2 hours, or 10 total hours in bed. 

So, we’d work on getting to bed 10 hours before it’s time to get up.

It's also good to think about maximizing consistency in terms of bedtime and wake time. That can improve sleep quality. It can also help you take regular naps if you need them.

What about falling asleep on the couch watching TV?

Great question! 

There are a couple of concerns here. One is that if you’re falling asleep watching TV, it may be because you’re overly tired and not getting enough total sleep in general. 

Another concern would be sleep quality. If you’re waking up on the couch before the night is over, it’s possible you’re not getting enough deep sleep, or quality sleep. 

What is the difference between Deep Sleep and REM Sleep? And, Is "Low Sleep" the same as "Light Sleep?"

These are good questions to clarify!

Usually, we talk about “low sleep” to refer to being short on quality sleep. That can mean short sleep (not enough hours), poor sleep (not good enough quality), or both. 

These are the stages of the sleep cycle. .

  • REM sleep (rapid eye movement) - when you have dreams
  • NREM stage 1 (light sleep) - when you are asleep, but may have light movements
  • NREM stage 2 (deeper sleep) - which is about half the sleep in a normal night
  • NREM stage 3 (deepest sleep) - when you are most deeply asleep and muscle repair is greatest

“Light sleep” technically refers to one of the stages (NREM stage 1) of the sleep cycle. “Deep sleep” usually refers to NREM stage 3. 

How does low estrogen affect sleep?

Low estrogen is more common in peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women. You may already realize that low estrogen can interfere with optimal sleep if you’re experiencing sleep disturances during menopause! Low estrogen may lead to altered sleep quality.

If you are experiencing altered sleep quality, remember that healthy lifestyle behaviors can support improved sleep. A nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, and being physically active can help with sleep.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have altered sleep or any concerns related to your estrogen levels.

What can I do about nightmares?

Nightmares can certainly be disturbing! Most people have fewer or less intense nightmares as they grow out of their school-age years, but they can still happen.

Nightmares can be more common if you have a high amount of stress. If that’s the case, take steps to manage stress, like being physically active, using a social network, meditating, and deep breathing techniques, for example. Stress of an illness may also cause nightmares.

Sometimes, talking about recurring nightmares can help you work through them and make them stop coming.

Certain mental health conditions and some medications, including beta-blockers, can induce nightmares. Withdrawing from some chemicals can also cause nightmares. Talk to a healthcare provider if these apply to you.

Be sure to talk to a healthcare provider if nightmares are very disturbing, or are preventing you from getting adequate sleep.

How do I curb food cravings right before sleep?

Food cravings are common before sleep, but there are steps you can take to prevent them from doing harm to your healthy eating intentions.

First, consider your overall diet and your dinner. To reduce cravings, it’s good to increase fiber, have protein at most meals and snacks, and choose healthier fats. These choices can help reduce cravings by helping to keep blood sugar more stable and prevent low blood sugar.

At the same time, limiting added sugars/sweets and fatty foods can help reduce cravings. The more we eat of those foods, the more we crave them. 

Next, let’s look at the evening meal and possibly a later snack. A good meal is moderately sized, and not too big, because that can intefere with sleep. Again, focus on fiber, a moderate amount of protein, and not much sugar or saturated fat.

If your dinner is early and you like a later snack, plan to have a healthier one. A small amount of oatmeal with some milk, or a slice of whole-grain bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter or ounce of low-fat cheese, might be a good choice that can keep you from being hungry before bed. Having a pre-planned snack can be nice mentally because that way you know that you’re not in need of more food even if cravings hit later.

It can also help to look at other reasons why you may have cravings, besides hunger. If it’s due to fatigue or being up too late, it may be a good idea to brush your teeth, use mouthwash, and go to bed. 

If cravings are due to boredom or emotional eating, it can be a good idea to find an activity that doesn’t involve eating or the kitchen. Even sitting on the couch watching television can be healthier than eating high-calorie foods for fun. If you have emotional eating, try to identify the emotions and address them in more efficient ways than eating. 

You might also try keeping a cravings journal and note the time you had your craving, what you wanted, and how strong it was. Also note what you had for dinner, what you’re feeling, and anything that may have happened that day to cause a craving.

Here are some additional tips for cravings. https://www.lark.com/resources/9-ways-to-overcome-food-cravings

Who do I contact with a problem connecting to my Apple watch for activity?

Please email support@lark.com for this issue or any other support issue. We’re here for you!

OUR next live webinar

Muscle Matters: Resistance Training Strategies for Diabetes Prevention

March 20, 2024 12:30 PM
Members of Lark's Diabetes Prevention Program can check your emails for registration information! Not a member? See if you're eligible for live webinar access and more.

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