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Research Finds A Link Between Sleep Quality & Blood Sugar Control

Blonde woman in a striped button down stretching in bed, sunlight beaming in.
Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy
November 30, 2021

Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and sleep are well-known pillars of our overall health. And over time, we're learning more and more about how these things work in tandem. When it comes to maintaining healthy blood sugar, for instance, new research published in Diabetologia indicates that the quality of your sleep can play a significant role. Here's what the study found.

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Looking at sleep's effect on blood sugar levels.

For this study, researchers set out to investigate how sleep duration, timing, and quality can affect people's blood sugar fluctuations.

To do so, they pooled nearly 1,000 healthy adults for a two-week study. Over the course of the two weeks, participants wore movement-tracking devices that measured their sleep quality and glucose-monitoring devices that recorded their blood sugar after eating a standardized breakfast each morning.

The change in blood glucose levels after eating a meal is known as "postprandial glycemic control." Maintaining better postprandial glycemic control is a sign of healthy blood sugar balance.

What they found.

The findings suggest that a later bedtime and poor sleep quality could result in lower glycemic control, as well as suboptimal blood sugar levels. An earlier bedtime and better sleep quality, on the other hand, were associated with greater blood sugar control and healthier blood sugar levels. The positive effect seemed to go both ways: After maintaining healthy blood sugar levels post-breakfast, participants experienced better sleep quality.

And when a participant got better-quality sleep than usual, the findings showed their blood sugar was typically lower than normal after eating breakfast, suggesting an immediate and positive effect.

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The takeaway.

While the study authors note more personalized sleep guidelines are likely necessary to apply these findings to individuals on a broader scale, their findings "underscore the importance of sleep in regulating metabolic health" and indicate "sleep duration, efficiency and midpoint are important determinants of postprandial glycemic control at a population level."

So, if you needed another reason to hit the hay a bit earlier and prioritize high-quality deep sleep, just consider your blood sugar.