There are many types of rest. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There is Sabbath rest, both literal and figurative. But when we think of rest in terms of lifestyle practices, we probably think of nighttime sleep.
How many hours of sleep do you need? Does it matter when, in a 24-hour period, you get those hours of sleep? “We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night—but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.”1
What is the particular importance of sleep for diabetics? “If you’re a middle-aged adult with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or existing heart disease, and you typically sleep less than six hours each night, you could be setting yourself up for cancer or an early death from heart disease.”2
There is a definite connection between sleep and diabetes, according to sources we have researched. Too little sleep can raise your diabetes risk. “In our sample, sleep duration and quality were significant predictors of HbA1c, a key marker of glycemic control. Combined with existing evidence linking sleep loss to increased diabetes risk, these data suggest that optimizing sleep duration and quality should be tested as an intervention to improve glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes.”3
If you already have diabetes, sleep loss can undermine blood sugar control.4 Studies have shown that both sleeping too long or not enough each night can increase the risk for diabetes.
According to one source, sleep deprivation’s effect on diabetes is like insulin resistance, which prevents your body from using the insulin it makes.
Lack of sleep increases hunger for high-carb high-fat foods—the worst food combination for diabetics. “In a review of 18 studies, researchers found that a lack of sleep led to increased cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.”5 And this is true!
It is said that if you need an alarm clock to wake up, you are probably not getting enough sleep. Because, if you were, you would wake up before the alarm clock rings. “If you can find a way to match your sleep schedule to your biology—and get a full eight hours of Z’s—you’ll be better off.”6
Experts recommend keeping the same bedtimes and wake times every day, even on weekends. The average sleep requirement is 7.5 hours of sleep, but your requirement may be as little as 6 hours or as much as 10 hours. Whether your body needs 6 hours or 10 hours of sleep, make sure you get what you need! “The following may help to promote better sleep:
- Keep your blood glucose under control (Normal = 70-99 mg/dL or 3.8-5.6 mmol/l)
- Ensure your bed is large and comfortable enough, and pillows at a comfortable height
- Ensure your room is cool (around 18° or 64.4° F.) and well-ventilated
- Ensure your room is dark and free from noise; if this is not possible, you may benefit from a sleeping blindfold and/or ear plugs
- Incorporate a period of exercise into each day
- Stick to a regular bedtime”7
Current research suggests that “the average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to feel rested and prevent the symptoms of depression.”8
Diabetes increases one’s risk for sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. “It’s important for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes to be screened for OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea). Insomnia, like other sleep disorders, often goes undiagnosed, including in people with diabetes. The increased incidence of RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) in people with diabetes may be a result of nerve damage (neuropathy) that occurs with diabetes. When sleep problems are more serious, diabetes tends to be more severe and less well-controlled.”9
Best Sleep Before Midnight?
You may have heard someone say that an hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two hours’ sleep after midnight. Apparently, James S. White wrote (in Health, or How to Live, 1865), “One hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after it.”
Actually, there’s nothing magical about midnight on the clock that makes “every hour of sleep before midnight…worth two after midnight.” But here are some sources I found on this topic.
Dr. Sarah Myhill, a medical practitioner in the UK, in her article on CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) wrote (in 2007): “There are some lifestyle changes which have been well-recognized to improve production of hGH*. The first of these is sleep…. Most secretion of hGH occurs during the hours of sleep before midnight. This may explain the old wives’ tale that one hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after. It squares with the fact that many CFSs are owls rather than larks.”
She also says, “The second factor which affects hGH production is diet. Insulin blocks hGH production, so anything that can be done to keep insulin levels low will be very helpful. Again, this may explain why the low-carbohydrate, medium-protein, high-fat (ketogenic) diet benefits so many of my CFS sufferers.”10 And that, for us as diabetics, is very significant!
*hGH (Human Growth Hormone) “is the most abundant hormone produced by the pituitary gland and is the most important anti-aging hormone.”
The next author connects circadian rhythms to sleep quality. “There’s an area in the brain called the circadian timer, which helps to synchronize the movement and function of every cell in the body to the levels of light and darkness in the environment. So as the light level drops below a certain limit, it sends a message to the pineal gland through the eyes, and then every cell in the body starts adjusting its functions.”11
“Our circadian rhythm plays an essential part in the regulation of many of our bodies’ systems—including our blood pressure, body temperature, and hormone production” (think hGH). “The 90-minute phase before midnight is one of the most powerful phases of sleep, because it’s the period [when] the body is replenished,” Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert, explains. “It’s rejuvenated on every level—physically, mentally, emotionally, and, I believe, spiritually, as well. There’s a lot of healing that takes place in that first phase of sleep.” She continues: “It’s also a really important phase for reorganizing the brain. So all the information we’re taking in during the day gets reorganized during that phase of sleep before midnight, and it’s very important for bringing adrenaline levels down—if you’re under a lot of stress, you want to make sure you get that phase before midnight.”
Every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight. Your grandparents (and great grandparents) probably adhered to that creaky adage. “The mythology is unfortunate, because there’s no pumpkin-like magic that occurs,” says Dr. Matt Walker, head of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. He says that non-REM sleep dominates your slumber cycles in the early part of the night. But as the clock creeps toward daybreak, REM sleep muscles in. That’s significant, because some research has suggested that non-REM sleep is deeper and more restorative than lighter, dream-infused REM sleep—though Walker says both offer important benefits.12
Can you get too much sleep? “The amount of sleep you get—or lack thereof—can make a big difference in your health. According to a recent study, getting too much sleep is just as bad for your heart as not getting enough.”13 Ellen White has been reported to have said, “The number of hours of sleep generally needed varies with circumstances. The average is seven to nine. In general, one should sleep when sleepy and not try to sleep more” (unable to find source).
Adventist Vegetarian Diabetics™ Recommends:
- Determine your optimum amount of sleep and aim to get that amount every night. Even on weekends.
- Do whatever it takes to keep your blood glucose and insulin levels in non-diabetic normal ranges.
- Create an environment in your bedroom that will promote sleep for you.
- Finish eating your last meal of the day four to five hours before your bedtime.
- Walk or exercise gently after your last meal of the day. (During times of the year when it gets dark before your last meal of the day, exercise indoors based on specific activities and/or following “gentle movement” exercise routines on YouTube or in an online exercise group.)
- Experiment with getting quality sleep in the 90-minute period before midnight.
- Whether your body needs 6 hours or 10 hours of sleep, make sure you get what you need!
1Hegarty, Stephanie. “The myth of the eight-hour sleep,” BBC News (February 22, 2012). https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16964783 (accessed on 7/26/2020).
2LaMotte, Sandee. “Mixing less than 6 hours of sleep with chronic disease is deadly combo,” CNN Health (October 2, 2019). https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/02/health/poor-sleep-link-heart-disease-diabetes-cancer-wellness/index.html (accessed on 7/26/2020).
3Knutson, Kristen L.; Armand M. Ryden; Bryce A. Mander; Eve Van Cauter. “Role of sleep duration and quality in the risk and severity of type 2 diabetes mellitus,” Arch Intern Med. 2006 Sep 18;166(16):1768-74. doi: 10.1001/archinte.166.16.1768. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16983057/ (accessed on 7/26/2020).
4Donovan, John; reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD. “Sleep and Diabetes: The Secret Link,” WebMD (December 1, 2015). https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/diabetes-sleep-connection#1 (accessed on 7/26/2020).
5Mahoney, Mark. “Sleep deprivation linked to weight gain | Health,” Tallahasse Democrat (September 15, 2019). https://www.tallahassee.com/story/life/wellness/2019/09/16/sleep-deprivation-linked-weight-gain/2314764001/ (accessed on 7/26/2020).
6Heid, Markham. “What’s the Best Time to Sleep? You Asked,” Time (August 27, 2014; updated April 27, 2017). https://time.com/3183183/best-time-to-sleep/ (accessed 7/24/2020).
7Editor. “Diabetes and Sleep,” Diabetes.co.uk (January 15, 2019). https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-sleep.html (accessed on 7/26/2020).
8“Science Explains How Many Hours of Sleep You Need To Avoid Depression,” Power of Positivity, n.d. https://www.powerofpositivity.com/heres-many-hours-sleep-need-avoid-depression/ (accessed on 7/26/2020).
9Breus, Dr. Michael. “What You Need To Know About Sleep Disorders And Diabetes,” The Sleep Doctor (May 15, 2018). https://thesleepdoctor.com/2018/05/15/what-you-need-to-know-about-sleep-disorders-and-diabetes/ (accessed on 7/26/2020).
10Myhill, Dr. Sarah. “Human Growth Hormone (HGH),” DoctorMyhill (2007). https://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Human_Growth_Hormone_(HGH) (accessed on 7/26/2020).
11Geall, Lauren. “Sleep tips: why the sleep we get before midnight is the most important kind,” Stylist (June 2020). https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/healthy-sleep-tips-best-time-go-to-bed-hours-before-midnight-science-research/350123 (accessed on 7/26/2020).
12Walker, Matt. “Sleep is your superpower,” YouTube (June 3, 2019). https://youtu.be/5MuIMqhT8DM (accessed on 10/19/2020)
13Lee, Craig T. “Study: Too much sleep just as bad for you as not sleeping enough,” StudyFinds (September 7, 2020). https://www.studyfinds.org/too-much-sleep-as-bad-as-not-sleeping-enough/ (accessed on 10/19/2020).