Sleep Disorders Associated With Type 2 Diabetes

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Diabetes can affect sleep and is commonly linked with certain sleep disorders. Obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and disrupted sleep caused by nerve pain or a nighttime urge to urinate are all sleep issues associated with type 2 diabetes.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the connection between sleep and diabetes, diabetes complications from a lack of sleep, when to see a healthcare provider, and tips for better sleep.

Woman with diabetes monitor asleep


Diabetes Complications From Lack of Sleep 

Lack of sleep can make diabetes more difficult to manage. A lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance (when your body doesn't respond to insulin normally), which has a significant impact on blood sugar levels. Preventing and managing diabetes require maintaining healthy ranges of blood sugar and avoiding drastic spikes and drops.

A lack of sleep can be defined as having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Diabetes complications can occur from lack of sleep or from having a coexisting sleep disorder. Getting less than seven hours of sleep per night on a regular basis (children and teens require even more) can lead to the following complications:

  • Increased hunger, which affects your appetite and how much you eat
  • Food cravings that may make it harder to avoid high-carb, high-sugar foods, which leads to blood sugar spikes and drops
  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Higher blood pressure, which increases the risk of a heart attack
  • Immune system deficiency that creates an inability to fight off infections
  • Increased risk of mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression 

Sleep Issues Associated With Type 2 Diabetes

Many types of sleep issues are associated with type 2 diabetes, including the following:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is when a person repeatedly stops breathing during their sleep. This sleep condition often goes undiagnosed and untreated, putting a person at risk for complications, including diabetes.

Restless Legs Syndrome

People with diabetes are at increased risk of experiencing restless legs syndrome. RLS is when a person has a persistent, distracting, and irritating drive to move their legs (most often during nighttime). This need to move makes falling and staying asleep more challenging.

RLS and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage that causes pain) are two of the more common sleep issues associated with diabetes.

Nighttime Urge to Urinate

High blood glucose levels associated with diabetes create blood vessel damage that affects the urinary tract, causing nighttime urges to urinate. A nighttime urge to urinate can lead to a frequently disrupted sleep cycle and lack of sleep. If you’re experiencing frequent urges to urinate overnight, mention this to your healthcare provider so they can test for diabetes.

Nerve Pain (Peripheral Neuropathy)

Diabetic nerve pain, or peripheral neuropathy, is a specific type of pain sensation that can make it incredibly challenging to relax and reach a state of being able to fall asleep and stay asleep. Not everyone with diabetes experiences this pain. But the pain associated with diabetes is a risk factor for sleep issues than no pain.

Peripheral neuropathy can also create challenges in mobility or the ability to exercise. Exercising promotes better sleep by tiring a person out and releasing excess energy. Maintaining a healthy body weight for your physical frame helps prevent and manage prediabetes (high blood glucose levels that are not high enough to be diabetes) and diabetes.

Diagnosing Sleep Problems

If you’re experiencing any sleep challenges, keeping a sleep log or using a sleep tracking app may be helpful to your healthcare provider. They will likely conduct a physical exam and ask health history or lifestyle questions, such as how much alcohol you consume, as well as recommend blood tests to rule out other conditions that could be causing or contributing to sleep issues.

A sleep study, or polysomnogram (PSG), with a sleep specialist may also be necessary to diagnose the condition causing your sleep problems.

Depending on your location and symptoms, overnight sleep studies may be conducted in the comfort of your own home (and bed).

Tips for Better Sleep

Whether you have prediabetes, diabetes, or are just feeling like you’re not getting enough deep sleep each night, you can make simple modifications and lifestyle changes to promote better sleep.

To improve sleep, you can try the following:

  • Set the sleeping environment for success, which means keeping the room dark, quiet or with white noise, and cool (aim for 65 degrees, the expert-recommended temperature for best sleep).
  • Avoid light from screens including e-readers, TVs, computers, cellphones, and laptops.
  • Maintain a set bedtime that includes a bedtime routine that helps you unwind and ready for bed.
  • Reserve your bed for bedtime hours and sleep.
  • Avoid stimulating substances too near bedtime. These include caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, whose effects last for several hours after consumption (even if you don’t feel the full effects still).

If you’re still experiencing sleep issues after trying these tips, consider consulting with your healthcare provider, who may then recommend seeing a sleep specialist.


Lack of sleep and diabetes is a two-way relationship. A lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes, and diabetes contributes to common sleep problems and sleep disorders. These sleep disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, a nighttime urge to urinate, and peripheral neuropathy. Making changes to your daily routine and your sleeping environment can help.

A Word From Verywell 

While these health conditions are interconnected, poor sleep doesn’t mean you have diabetes and having diabetes doesn't always lead to poor sleep. Discuss any new or ongoing sleep problems, including the nighttime urge to urinate, with your healthcare provider, who can offer options for treatment and relief.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many hours of sleep per night should someone with diabetes get?

    A person with diabetes should try to get seven hours of sleep per night on a regular basis. Children and teens need more sleep. One night of poor sleep isn’t a problem, but over time, it can worsen your diabetes symptoms.

  • Does taking a nap lower blood sugar?

    Getting adequate nighttime sleep helps regulate blood sugar levels. But daytime napping after 3 p.m. can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night, increasing your risk of insulin resistance.

  • What is diabetes fatigue?

    Diabetes fatigue or diabetes fatigue syndrome is a condition causing excessive daytime tiredness in people with diabetes. Causes are complex and include lifestyle factors such as sleeping habits, substance use, diet, medications, and neuropathy.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  7. National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease. Diabetes, sexual and bladder problems.

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By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.