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Study Names Insomnia a Risk Factor for Diabetes

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Do you get enough sleep? A new study has found a link between insomnia and an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Find more about this link below.

Research has linked chronic insomnia with a wide range of health problems for both the short-term and long-term. Insomnia not only makes it harder to function during day-to-day activities but poor sleep is also linked with a variety of health conditions ranging from obesity to heart disease.

In 2016, researchers examined the data from over 100,000 women and found that not only does insomnia increase the risk for a variety of health conditions, it may also cause an increase in the risk for developing diabetes by up to four times. Read about this study and the implications below.

Study Details

A study published in Diabetologia in January 2016 found a link between women who have insomnia and women who have type 2 diabetes. The researchers studied over 133,000 American women who took place in the Nurses' Health Study between 2000 and 2004. When the study started, no women had diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. But by the end of the study, 6,400 women developed type 2 diabetes. The researchers analyzed the data to determine what factors played a role in why these women developed type 2 diabetes.

While diet and sugar intake were significant factors, the women also had something else in common: insomnia. The women who reported the most insomnia were four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who reported sleeping well at night. "Women with sleeping difficulty, especially when also having other conditions, should be aware of potential higher risk of diabetes," the researchers concluded.

Doctors should pay more attention to the potential diabetes risk of women who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep." The researchers stated that this is simply an association, rather than a direct cause. However, the risk still remained when other diabetes factors were eliminated. Women who were not depressed, didn't have high blood pressure, and were not obese had a 44 percent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes if they did not sleep well.

The researchers theorized that women who have insomnia do not have the hormone regulation that can help prevent diabetes. Insulin regulation and hunger are both regulated during sleep, which means that a person who is not sleeping well has hormonal imbalances that could increase health risks over time.

"Not sleeping well affects the circadian rhythm regulated by hormones that are so important for metabolism and involved in control of blood sugar. Thus, it is not surprising that sleep disorders are associated with obesity and diabetes," researchers explained.

Get More Sleep and Reduce Diabetes Risk

This study suggest that insomnia can have life-altering side effects that do not show up until years later. Poor sleep has devastating effects both for short-term and long-term health. The National Sleep Institute suggests that most adults should sleep between seven and nine hours each night, but many adults report sleeping fewer than five or six hours per night, which is extremely damaging. Chronic insomnia, where a person has trouble sleeping at night, further compounds the issue.

Use the tips outlined below to fight insomnia naturally.

How to Prevent Insomnia

Most of us realize we should be getting more sleep, but if you are suffering from insomnia, you simply might not be able to get the recommended amount of sleep. Insomnia has been associated with a wide range of health problems, including:

Health Dangers of Insomnia
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Injuries
  • Confusion
  • Slow reaction times
  • Irritability
  • Depression

Although insomnia is obviously quite unhealthy, if you suffer from chronic insomnia, you may simply be unable to sleep more. However, there is still hope for you even if you suffer from chronic insomnia. Research suggests that the following changes and natural remedies can be effective in reducing symptoms of insomnia:

Reconditioning

If you suffer from chronic insomnia, your bed may not feel like a restful spot for you. You can change this through some reconditioning over a few weeks. First, only stay in your bed if you feel sleepy. If you are wide awake, stay in another room until you start to feel drowsy. Then go back to bed and try to sleep. You can also try reading in bed, which usually encourages sleep. Use the bed for sleep only.

Other activities, like playing on a phone, watching TV, or eating should be done elsewhere. Over time, your brain will associate your bed with sleep and just being in bed will help you feel sleepier.

Herbs and Supplements

Numerous herbs and supplements have been shown to boost sleepiness and help reset the wake/sleep cycle. If you suffer from chronic insomnia, adding these herbs to your diet can help reduce symptoms of insomnia.

Herbs that Fight Insomnia 

Magnesium and Calcium: Together, magnesium and calcium boost the hormones involved in helping you fall asleep. Magnesium can help fight restless legs and has a general calming effect, while calcium is used to balance hormones and structure an efficient sleep/wake cycle. Adding more magnesium to the diet alone is often enough to eliminate insomnia.

Lavender: Lavender is a calming herb that is best when applied topically or diffused into a bedroom. The smell of lavender prevents racing thoughts and promotes a feeling of relaxation and calm. If you do not like lavender, you can exchange it for chamomile, which has a similar effect.

Passion Flower: Passion flower promotes sleep and has a mild sedative effect. Taken just before bed, passionflower can help encourage sleepiness and prevent insomnia and night waking. Try adding passion flower to tea or taking it in supplement form before bedtime.

B Vitamins: A deficiency in B vitamins has been linked with insomnia. Adding more B vitamins to your diet is not only beneficial for promoting sleep, but it also boosts the immune system and the entire health of the body. B vitamins are typically found in fish and dairy.

Wild Lettuce: Wild lettuce is an herb that works to reduce anxiety and restlessness. It is often used as a treatment for restless leg syndrome, but it also is effective in reducing insomnia. Take a wild lettuce supplement about 30 minutes before bed to encourage healthy sleep and prevent night waking.

Hops: Just like passion flower, hops have a mild sedative effect, which is one reason why beer can make you sleepy. Hops not only encourage sleepiness, but they also work to reduce anxiety and promote a feeling of calm.

L-theanine: Found in tea, l-theanine is beneficial for boosting feelings of calm and deep, restful sleep. To prevent night waking from too much liquid consumption before bed, take a l-theanine supplement rather than downing several cups of tea.

Valerian: Valerian is a common remedy for insomnia. Studies indicate that valerian can speed how quickly you fall asleep, help you stay asleep longer, and promotes deep sleep.

Eliminate Daytime Sleep

Even though you may want to nap during the day if you feel tired or have insomnia, if you are trying to reset your sleep/wake cycle, resist the urge. Rather than take a nap, work to stay awake and go to bed as soon as you start to feel sleepy at night (even as early as 8 PM if you can make it happen). This gentle retraining will help remind your body that you are meant to be sleeping at night, not during the day.

Reset Your Circadian Clock

If you have insomnia, it is likely that your circadian clock is out of balance. Your circadian clock is the regulation of sleep/wake hormones. In a normal body, you have certain hormones that wake you up that are triggered by the sun rising and other hormones that are triggered with sunset.

These hormones tell you to be awake or sleep and also trigger differing body processes that occur at different times of the day. If your circadian rhythm is out of balance, you will likely suffer from insomnia. It isn't hard to reset your clock, it just takes a bit of dedication. Try to be outside for the sun rising and setting each day for two weeks. This alone will make a difference. Spend a few minutes in the morning sun each day and at night, keep the lights low and engage in restful activities.

Avoid exposing yourself to blue light at night (projected by TV screens and other electronics) as blue light is what the sun gives off in the morning and may keep your hormones out of balance. As much as possible, keep your bedroom completely dark at night and make a big distinction between your daytime and nighttime activities.

Exercise

Insomnia can also be triggered by too little activity during the day. Avoid this by exercising for at least 30 minutes each day. Jog, do a few weight exercises, dance around, or engage in any activity that is active and enjoyable for you. Moving around and having a sense of purpose can go a long way toward preventing insomnia.

Create a Restful Atmosphere

If your room is not built for sleep, you will have a harder time falling asleep at night. Don't keep a TV or other electronic devices for your room. Keep your room as a haven for sleep filled with blankets, pillows, and other relaxing, soft bedding that encourages sleep.

Keep your room as dark as possible using blackout curtains. Place a fan or other noisemaker in your room so that you can sleep solidly through the night and are not woken by every small sound or scratch on the window. Make an effort to only engage in restful activities in your bedroom. Don't pay bills, think about work, or engage in other stressful activities there. Make your bedroom a stress-free zone.

Additional Insomnia Tips

  • Keep a notebook by your bed for those thoughts that pop in and won't go away. Write them down and tell yourself you will think about them in the morning.
  • Don't look at the clock. This can make you panic about how little sleeping time is left before morning and keep you awake.
  • Listen to soothing sounds, like waves lapping at the shore or a steady stream of white noise such as a fan.
  • Drink a cup of warm chamomile tea with honey right before bed.
  • Methodically relax and say goodnight to each part of your body from your toes to your face.
  • Breathe deeply, as if you are already asleep.
  • Find a comfortable position and do not flip flop around.
  • Ask your partner to give you a back rub before bed. Take a warm, relaxing bath with essential oils such as lavender or chamomile before sleeping to set a calm mood before you try to sleep.
  • Play gentle music at night to promote a restful atmosphere.
  • Do not talk about stressful topics before bed or in bed.

Reduce Diabetes Risk by Reversing Insomnia

Insomnia is frustrating and has many health consequences, making curing insomnia a top priority for many. Although you may have struggled with insomnia on and off for years, implementing the above tips can help reduce and reverse symptoms permanently and eliminate the risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems. With a little dedication and a bit of outside help, you can reverse insomnia and finally start sleeping once again.

Next Article: What Causes Sleep Problems