Understanding diabetes

Can’t Fall Asleep? - Insomnia Can be Caused by High Blood Glucose Levels

If you are having trouble falling asleep and wonder what causes insomnia this article might provide the answers you seek

If you have trouble falling asleep, or just can't fall asleep at all without a dose of sleeping pills at night, and your partner calls you an insomniac, then you should listen to them because we all need sleep to recover from daily stresses.  Insomnia is often caused by low blood sugar (Hypogylcemia) levels in healthy individuals, but this is usually preventable.  Indeed there is a long list of possible of causes of insomnia, such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and intake of prescription medicines, but if you have eliminated these obvious causes then it's time to visit your GP to test for high blood pressure and high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) to see if you are prediabetic or actually have diabetes.

Both high blood pressure and high blood glucose can cause insomnia and often occur together, and both are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

How are Blood Pressure and High Blood Glucose Levels Related?

Your body constantly tries to regulate blood glucose levels within a specific normal range between 4.0 mmol/L and 5.9 mmol/L before meals and under 7.8 mmol/L after meals. In excess of this range, the body creates more insulin to trigger blood glucose conversion into glycogen, a system of long term energy storage in the liver. Conversely, if your blood glucose levels are too low, your body will produce adrenaline which is a trigger for the release of the hormone glucagon which mediates the release your glucose from glycogen stores in the liver. It also causes vasoconstriction and increases your heart rate; and so your blood glucose levels can affect blood pressure.

Blood pressure is regulated maintaining a range between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, principally through two main hormones released in the blood. Adrenaline speeds things up, causing vasoconstriction and an increased heart rate, and its counterbalance, nitric oxide, causes vasodilation and increases blood filtering to reduce blood volume. The consequence is, of course, that your bladder will fill, and you will need to urinate.

There are many other hormones involved, but this is how the two systems are related at the most basic level. A dysfunction in one system will cause problems in the other, so it is important to monitor both blood pressure and blood glucose levels, especially if you have problems sleeping, are overweight, or have a sedentary lifestyle.

Understanding how Diabetes Affects this balance.

In people with Diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, a dystunctional regulation of Blood glucose disrupts the delicate balance mentioned above. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreatic α-cells responsible for the production of glucagon and the β-cells which produce insulin are both ineffective, producing very little to none of the required amount necessary to maintain balance, thus greatly impairing the recovery from low blood sugar or hypoglycemia and high blood sugar/hyperglycemia. In type 2 diabetes, while the outcome is similar, the mechanism causing it is different, with dysfunction causing an increased production of glucagon. The problem here is that the impact of these hormones is impaired, which is why more is produced by the pancreas as it tries to maintain balance (more below).

How being out-of-balance causes Type 2 diabetes

Diabetes is caused by blood glucose regulation dysfunction known as insulin resistance. The cells that detect insulin have a reduced response to it, or stop responding to it entirely.  It is thought that high levels of stress and the constant presence of adrenaline and insulin cause constant, elevated blood glucose levels, ultimately causing a down-regulation (gear change) of sensitivity to these hormones. In the short term, the body can handle this; it is capable of responding to short-term stressful situations, but in the long term, it is damaging to the body; the blood glucose sensors and blood pressure sensors can fail, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes.

How does Stress Affect this Balance?

When our bodies need to deal with increased stress levels, the body reacts by raising adrenaline levels, and thereby increasing blood glucose levels. Here we imagine the short-term fight or flight response mechanism, with the body primed for action; however, stress can be more insidious. For example, if you are stressed due to work pressures or a troubling task you can’t complete, then it's difficult to relax, causing constant stress, constant elevated adrenaline, and elevated glucose levels. 

Stress can become damaging because of high blood pressure and high blood glucose levels, and this is also one key reason why stress is a risk factor for DiabetesIt may also be the reason why you can’t sleep.  

Long term symptoms of insomnia should be investigated because it might well indicate you have prediabetes, or that you might already be classified as diabetic, the initial stages of which have few symptoms.

What are Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia

Blood glucose levels outside the norm are either Hyperglycemia or Hypoglycemia, with hyper being too high and hypo being too low. These two terms are all too familiar to people with type 2 diabetes. They have to deal with increasing frequency of periods of discomfort as their dysfunction manifests, and as body tries to manage the peaks and troughs of blood glucose levels and extremes of blood pressure.

What are Hypertension and Hypotension

Blood pressure levels outside the norm (range provided above)  result in either Hypertension or Hypotension, again with hyper being too high and hypo being too low. Once again, it's about balance; the body is designed to respond in the short-term, generating action, either flight or fight, constant higher levels of adrenaline results in down-regulation of sensors and adrenaline resistance.

Prediabetes is a period of action

Today, an unhealthy society is a norm in many countries. We all eat too much and drink the wrong things in excess because they just taste soooo darn good. The problem is that it puts an extra burden on our bodies, making the systems of regulation work that much harder, predisposing us to system failure, dysfunction, and type 2 diabetes.

Short-term spikes in blood glucose levels should be expected during difficult times; however, if your difficult times drag on becoming difficult for months or years, then you should seek help from family and friends or professional help to reduce your stress burden naturally. If this support is unavailable, the option is always there to artificially reduce your stress burden with medical intervention with prescription medications.

The best defense is offense; preparation is prevention when it comes to diet, health, and well being. Carefully monitoring your diet (try DiabTrend), blood glucose levels and blood pressure has become essential. The healthiest you can be should be the goal, and in terms of diet, this is the Mediterranean diet and a lifestyle with regular daily exercise; these are necessary to maintain balance and a good night's sleep.

Protect yourself from imbalance and dysfunction and prevent type 2 diabetes with DiabTrend to manage your Mediterranean diet.

Image Sources

Richard Johnson
Reading time: 
April 25, 2022

Handle your diabetes smartly!

Start DiabTrend

Other posts about diabetes