How Does Sleep Affect Glucose Levels?

Dr.Poonam Sharma

December 6, 2022

Modern lives put exacting standards on us. We strive to do better and get more successful. As a result, most of us struggle to achieve a proper work-life balance. Suppose you want to sketch a typical day in the life of a successful professional. In that case, you immediately visualise rushed lunches, late working hours, a bag of chips, binge drinking and partying over the weekend and a perennial lack of sleep. A growing portion of the adult population does not get adequate sleep. Some specialists believe the average amount of sleep is about 6 hours every night.

Research shows that sleep deprivation has significant adverse effects on alertness, cognitive and motor functions, mood, and various metabolic, hormonal, and immunological variables.

This article talks about the importance of adequate sleep and how it can affect your blood sugar levels and overall well-being. It would also inform you about tips to help you get the rest you and your body need. 

Understanding the Importance of Sleep

Sleep is a temporary behavioural state when your senses are disengaged and less responsive to your environment. Sleep is a complicated mix of physiological and behavioural processes. A lying position generally relates to inactivity, closed eyelids and other signs associated with sleeping.

According to research, there are two distinct sleep stages. Rapid Eye Movement (REM sleep) and Non- Rapid Eye Movement (NREM sleep) exist in almost all mammals and birds, and they are as different from each other in terms of wakefulness. 

Sleep is of immense importance to your body. It helps your body recharge, repair tissues, restore energy, grow muscles, reorganise memory, maintain weight, strengthen immunity, and manage your insulin. 

What Affects Your Sleep?

The brain is in charge of regulating and controlling transitions between waking up and sleeping. It is also directly related to the quality and depth of sleep you enjoy. For example, you could be reading a novel on your ride back home and doze off the next minute. 

The quick transition between sleep and consciousness results from an interaction between specific parts of the brain. Apart from brain functions, certain external factors like light, coffee, exposure to devices, mood, etc., also play a role in sleep regulation.

Circadian Rhythms 

You might have heard many health gurus say that you need to follow your internal clock. This internal clock is the internal process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. The circadian rhythm runs 24 hrs in the background while you carry out tasks. Also, it has synchronisation with a master clock in the brain.

Circadian rhythm is linked to the day-night cycle because environmental signals, mainly light, directly influence this master clock. Your circadian rhythm connects the occurrence of the day and night with your wakefulness and sleep, creating a steady pattern of replenishing rest that allows us to do more during the day.

Exposure to sunlight during the day enables the master clock to produce signals that help us stay awake and active by generating awareness. The master clock begins to produce melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone that signals sleep as it gets dark. 

Homeostatic Drive

A homeostatic sleep drive is a process that leaves you with an increased desire to sleep through the day. The more time you spend awake, the more “pressure” builds up, making you feel exhausted. Conversely, the pressure drops while you sleep, causing you to feel less exhausted and forcing you to wake up. Some other names for the same include sleep pressure or sleep load.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the energy source for every cell in the body. As the name suggests, adenosine and three phosphate molecules form ATP. The cell obtains energy as the phosphate molecules break down and uses it for body functioning. After all phosphate molecules are over, only adenosine remains in the cells.

The leftover adenosine triggers the sleep drive. It causes changes in the brain by slowing the brain processes that make you feel active and turning on neural activities that make you feel fatigued. Energy metabolism within cells regulates the levels of this chemical.

Emotional/Cognitive Inputs

Sleep appears to be crucial for daily functioning. For example, you would notice how students who took a study-all-nighter may seem more stressed than those who sleep the night before an exam. Your capacity to adapt to the emotional stress of everyday life appears to depend on your ability to sleep. 

When you cannot manage daily strain, it can lead to mental health issues and sleep disruptions. Not only do emotions impact sleep, but a study says that proper rest is also an important indicator of emotion regulation. 

What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

  • If you don’t get enough sleep, you will constantly be fatigued and lose motivation to exercise. Or else, even if you decide to exercise, your athletic performance may decrease due to a longer reaction time and reduced energy.
  • A lack of sleep can raise your chances of getting sick, lowering your immunity level. For example, you may contract a cold virus. In addition, it reduces the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infections. 
  • Sleep deprivation can lead to several chronic diseases and ailments, including weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. 
  • Research results where individuals went through a sleep restriction for several days show a drop in activity, excitability and vigour, and increased exhaustion, sleepiness, anxiety, confusion, perplexity, and irritation.
  • The endocrine system controls the release of hormones, including insulin. Sleep deprivation can significantly impact glycemic management because the endocrine system relates to your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Testosterone levels peak during REM sleep and remain constant until you wake up when you go asleep. On the other hand, poor sleep can cause this hormonal process to be disrupted and reduce sex drive while also lowering testosterone levels.

Connection Between Sleep and Glucose Metabolism

Most diabetic patients check their blood glucose levels in the morning before having any food. This test is known as ‘fasting sugar.’ If you are one of them, it would also have come to your notice how readings of this in-home test are usually higher than the test you take after consuming your meal and medication. An explanation for this is the dawn effect. 

The Dawn Effect

The Dawn Phenomenon, also known as the Dawn Effect or the Somogyi Effect, occurs between 4 am and 8 am. During this period, your body gets ready to function for the day and releases increased glucose into your bloodstream. As a result, many people with diabetes get night doses and a regular morning dose of medication. 

Lack of Sleep and Sugar Levels

Your body releases many hormones during different times of the day on command of the endocrine system. Insulin is one of those hormones. Sleep deprivation can affect the endocrine system poorly and disrupt the balance of your glucose levels. 

Insufficient sleep is related to reduced glucose tolerance, and decreased insulin sensitivity dysregulates your appetite-regulating hormones. It can lead to late-night cravings or morning hunger, causing blood glucose levels to fluctuate even more.

Foods and Sleep

Your glucose levels would also shoot up during your sleep if you have consumed a high-calorie meal late at night or given in to one of those late-night ice cream cravings. However, if your meal were also high in fat, your sugar levels would be stagnantly high for a couple of more hours, which is not good for your body. 

Even a high blood sugar or low blood sugar can make you feel not so comfortable and hence hamper your sleep. Disrupted sleep can make your glucose levels worse. It might go on like a vicious cycle unless some monitoring immediately lets you know of any troubleshooting like the CGM.

The key to ensuring that your blood sugar stays within your standard limit is by getting it checked regularly. You must see its effect on food intake and glucose levels by altering your sleep patterns.

You could do so using a home kit or a Continuous Glucose Monitoring device without any pricking or blood business. 

Tips to Get Enough Sleep

It is risky enough to have fluctuating sugar levels. In addition, having them fluctuate in the middle of the night when you are partly in your senses can become even more dangerous. So here are some things you could do to make sure you have your sugar in control and get your beauty sleep:

  • It will help if you consume a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients throughout the day and small meals during breaks. As a result, this will make sure that your sugar does not drop and you stay full longer.
  • Limit the consumption of foods high in sugar, fat, caffeine or alcohol during the day and avoid them at night to help with your sleep.
  • If you have diabetes, take your medications regularly. Visit your doctor, talk to your health coach, monitor sugar levels and pay attention to glucose management. As a result, you will prevent sudden ups and downs and help you improve overall sleep quality.
  • Opt for exercises of your choice and enjoy movement. It could be Zumba, swimming, or simply a brisk walk around your neighbourhood petting cute pups. It would manage your glucose levels and exert your body enough to crave proper nutrition and optimal rest, making you healthy.
  • Environmental cues trigger sleep, so make sure your room is at a comfortable temperature. Pair this ambience with some dim lights if you like. 
  • Place electronic devices away from you before 30 minutes of going to bed. Research suggests that exposure to blue light from devices can be linked to weight gain and alter insulin sensitivity. 
  • Make yourself a ‘get ready for bed routine to condition your body to sleep. It could include taking a warm bath, meditating, writing a journal, reading a book or anything that is relaxing for you.
  • You could set a particular time to go to bed depending on when you wake up. At least 7 hours of sleep would ideally be enough. You could let your smart panel help you with regulating your sleep cycle.


Make use of multiple features of the HealthifyPro and track your sleep and your glucose levels weekly to check if you’ve been getting enough rest. It will help you find any patterns between sugar spikes or drops and the amount and quality of sleep you get.

Make sure you discuss your concerns and incidents of glucose fluctuation during the night with your coach to guide you through it and support you in developing sustainable habits that would prevent any possible sleep-related disorders.

About the Author

I, Dr. Poonam have 3+ years of experience in the field of Medicine. Currently serving as a Resident Physician at HealthifyMe, I have worked with premier hospitals such as Manipal Hospital, Bangalore as a Resident in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery and Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital, Chennai as a Medical Officer. I aspire to put my knowledge in medicine to use in providing healthcare and fitness services to people and help enhance my abilities in meeting the ever-growing healthcare needs.

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