Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep
How Are Sleep Problems Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your sleep patterns, including whether you have trouble falling or staying asleep, are sleepy during the day, have difficulty breathing while asleep (including snoring), have pain in your legs, or move or kick your legs while sleeping.
Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist who may do a special sleep study called a polysomnogram to measure activity during sleep. The results of the sleep study can help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe an effective and safe treatment.
How Are Sleep Problems Treated in Type 2 Diabetes?
There are several treatments for sleep problems in people with diabetes, depending on the condition:
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest that you lose weight to help you breathe more easily.
Another potential treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). With CPAP, patients wear a mask over their nose and/or mouth. An air blower forces air through the nose and/or mouth. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the upper airway tissues from collapsing during sleep. The pressure is constant and continuous. CPAP prevents airway closure while in use, but apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or is used improperly.
To treat the pain of peripheral neuropathy, your doctor may prescribe simple pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen, antidepressants such as amitriptyline, or anticonvulsants such as Neurontin, Topamax, or Gabitril. Other treatments include Lyrica, lidocaine injections, or creams such as capsaicin.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Various medications are used to treat restless legs syndrome, including dopamine agents, sleeping aids, anticonvulsants, and pain relievers. Your doctor may also prescribe iron if you have low iron levels.
There are also several medications that treat insomnia, including:
- Over the counter drugs such as antihistamines including diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl). These drugs should be used short term and in conjunction with changes in sleep habits.
- Medications used to treat sleep problems such as Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta.
- Benzodiazepines, medications that act on the brain and nerves to produce a calming effect, including Valium, Ativan, and Xanax.
- Antidepressants such as Serzone.
How Can I Improve my Sleep?
In addition to medications, recommendations to improve sleep are:
- Learn relaxation and breathing techniques.
- Listen to a relaxation or nature sounds CD.
- Get regular exercise, no later than a few hours before bedtime.
- Don't use caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening.
- Get out of bed and do something in another room when you can't sleep. Go back to bed when you're feeling drowsy.
- Use the bed only for sleeping and sexual activity. Don't lie in bed to watch TV or read. This way, your bed becomes a cue for sleeping, not for lying awake.