The link between sleep, melatonin and insulin

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

One of the things that ages us both externally and internally is lack of sleep. Generally, it is recommended that adults sleep between seven and nine hours a night. But over the last 40 years the amount we sleep has significantly decreased and we now get around two hours less than our grandparents did. Over this same period of time we have seen a dramatic increase in overweight and obesity.

Sleep is a complex process involving physical and biological functions. With the feeding centre in our brain controlling both our appetite and sleep, it’s not surprising that several studies have confirmed the following when we’re sleep deprived:

  • we weigh more
  • our metabolic rate slows down and we don’t burn fat as readily
  • the levels of our appetite hormones change, increasing our appetite and feelings of hunger.

Sleep disorders are very common with up to a third of us suffering from some sleep disturbance or abnormal daytime fatigue. This figure is higher in people with diabetes. Sleep disturbances affect us both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, most people with a sleep disorder are unaware that they have one, or that they can do something about it.

Science has shown that sleep is an anti-aging tool, because when we sleep we generate melatonin, a hormone and powerful antioxidant that helps us live longer, strengthens our immune system, protects us against cancer, promotes natural production of insulin, slows the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and helps prevent osteoporosis and fight heart disease, and therefore plays a role in preserving youth. In fact, many models claim to sleep between nine and 10 hours the night before a show, as this gives their skin a taut, wrinkle-free appearance and a healthy, radiant glow.

Unfortunately, melatonin production decreases after age 30, but we can compensate for this by:

  • eating a balanced diet
  • being physically active
  • soaking up a moderate amount of sun each day
  • getting enough sleep
  • avoiding stress, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, all of which make it harder to get a good night’s sleep and depriving us of the melatonin we need

If you see yourself in any of the above, speak with your GP about the possible benefits of a sleep study, and/or a referral to your diabetes care team.

For tips on how to improve your sleep, please follow this link.

For help with your diabetes management, please call our Customer Care Line on 1300 342 238 and ask to speak with a diabetes educator, dietitian or exercise physiologist.


Keywords: Insulinsleep

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