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Researchers are examining impact of poor sleep on diabetes risk, management


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3 minutes

Mounting evidence indicates that sleep loss or insufficient sleep may have ramifications for the diabetes community—affecting patients whether they have type 1, type 2, or are at risk for developing diabetes.

Five investigators will review the latest sleep science and its implications for diabetes patients and their providers during the symposium Diabetes Meets the Sandman—Sleep, Diabetes, and Glycemic Management, which will begin at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, June 16.

Three of the researchers spoke with and provided a preview of the symposium.

Sarah S. Jaser, PhD
Sarah S. Jaser, PhD

Sarah S. Jaser, PhD

Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Dr. Jaser: One of the things that’s interesting about sleep as a risk and protective factor for diabetes outcomes is it works in two ways. First, it has a physiological effect on blood glucose levels, hormones, cortisol, etc. In addition, insufficient sleep or variable sleep timing has an impact on the behavioral aspects of diabetes management. Lack of sleep affects motivation and mood. When we don’t get enough sleep, we’re more likely to be sedentary, more likely to choose foods higher in carbohydrates, and more likely to forget to take insulin or to argue about taking it with parents.

It’s a “chicken and egg” problem. Kids with poor control have more disrupted sleep. And poor sleep makes achieving good control more difficult. However, we can intervene and try to improve outcomes by getting people to sleep better.

I’ll review the data on barriers to obtaining sufficient sleep in adolescents and school age kids. Some of these are universal—things like early school start times, electronics, extracurricular schedules, hormonal shifts, and circadian rhythms. In both age groups, there are also diabetes-specific interruptions—device alarms, treating low blood sugars in the night.[gap height=”5″]

Erin C. Hanlon, PhD
Erin C. Hanlon, PhD

Erin C. Hanlon, PhD

Research Associate Professor, University of Chicago


Dr. Hanlon: Sleep loss, or deficient sleep, is often overlooked as a significant risk factor for diabetes. I will review carefully controlled laboratory studies demonstrating the relationship between short sleep, glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and hormones known to modulate feeding behavior.

Hopefully attendees will come away with a better understanding of the impact that sleep deficiency has on glycemic control and diabetes risk. Clinicians can begin to ask patients about sleep habits, explain that sleep deficiency can impact glycemic control, and encourage good sleep hygiene in their patients. Sleep is important for general health and shouldn’t just be thought of as a byproduct of the day.

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Susana R. Patton, PhD
Susana R. Patton, PhD

Susana R. Patton, PhD

Principal Research Scientist, Nemours Children’s Health System


Dr. Patton: Sleep is an important health behavior. There’s increasing evidence suggesting that sleep may be related to glycemia in youth with type 1 diabetes via physiological mechanisms and/or behavioral mechanisms. Clinicians should be aware of this and learn how and why to ask youth about their sleep and sleeping habits as part of standard care.

I hope one takeaway from my presentation will be a better appreciation of the potential recursive association between daytime behaviors and glycemic levels, and nighttime sleep and glycemic levels. I hope clinicians come away with a better appreciation for how changes or disruptions in youth sleep may relate to glycemic variability, especially at the individual level when we’re considering changes or disruptions in typical sleeping patterns and the impact that may have on their glycemic levels and self-management behaviors.


The session will also include lectures by Michelle Perfect, PhD, Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona, who will present “Addressing Zzz’s in Diabetes Management,” and Michelle A. Van Name, MD, Assistant Professor at Yale School of Medicine, who will present “Technology and Overnight Diabetes Management—Is Nighttime Still the Worst Time?”


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