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Sleep and diabetes

The relationship between diabetes and sleep can be complex. Getting enough quality sleep is important for good health and wellbeing, but sleep problems can be common for people living with diabetes, and getting a good night’s rest can be easier said than done. 

Changes in your blood sugar levels can play their part in disrupting sleep, and diabetes complications such as neuropathy (nerve damage) and foot pain can also make it hard to sleep.  

In this page we’ll look at diabetes and sleep in detail, including some of the ways technology can help improve our sleep, and some top tips to help you fall asleep more easily.  

Blood sugar levels and sleep 

woman sleeping

Low blood sugar, known as hypos (short for hypoglycaemia) in the night can affect people living with type 1 diabetes and can lead to reduced sleep quality. People living with other types of diabetes who take insulin or other glucose-lowering medication may also experience high and low blood sugar levels during the night. 

Having a hypo in the night can lead to daytime sleepiness the next day, and regularly experiencing hypos in the night can lead to irregular sleep patterns, such as going to sleep at different times.  

High blood sugar levels, known as hypers (short for hyperglycaemia) can also impact your sleep. When blood sugar levels are high, it can increase the number of times you go to the toilet, which can interrupt your sleep. High blood sugar levels can also cause symptoms such as feeling thirstier and having a headache and might make it harder to get straight back to sleep.  

If you live with diabetes and regularly struggle with high or low blood sugar levels at night, or you are the parent or guardian of a child living with diabetes who struggles to sleep because of low or high blood sugar levels, you can ask your healthcare team for advice.   

Risk of type 2 diabetes 

We know that there’s a link between quality of sleep, blood sugar levels and the risk of type 2 diabetes, although we don’t fully understand what's going on inside the body to explain these links. 

We know that poor quality sleep can affect blood sugar levels while we sleep, but more research is needed to see how sleep interventions could help people with or at risk of type 2 diabetes.  

Insomnia can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research led by the University of Bristol, that we funded. 

While getting a good night’s sleep is an essential component to good health, for reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it is also important to eat healthily and be physically active. 

How diabetes technology can improve sleep quality 

Diabetes technology has the potential to improve the quality of sleep for people living with diabetes. 

Hybrid closed loop systems 

Sometimes known as an artificial pancreas, hybrid closed loop systems are designed to keep blood sugar levels more stable throughout the day and night, and they can reduce how many hypos someone living with type 1 diabetes experiences.  

Parents of a child living with diabetes see benefits too. Research has previously shown that when closed loop systems were tested in children, nine out of 10 parents said they reported less trouble sleeping. 

Continuous glucose monitors (CGM)  

diabetes tech cgm

Flash glucose monitors and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) can alert people on their smartphones when their blood sugar levels are falling too low or rising too high. This can be useful during the night for anyone living with diabetes who is susceptible to a hypo and has hypo unawareness

Flash glucose monitors and CGMs also make it easier to test your blood sugar levels during the night, or test someone else’s, such as scanning their sensor, compared with finger-prick testing.  

Sleep trackers  

A good way to understand more about the quality of your sleep is to track it. 

Wearable sleep trackers can give you insights into your sleep habits and patterns, as well as health metrics and tips to help you improve how well your sleep.  


We know that certain complications that can be related to diabetes, such as nerve damage and foot pain, can make it difficult to sleep.   

Sleep apnoea is a complication that can be more likely to develop in people living with type 2 diabetes and obesity. People who have sleep apnoea can find their breathing stops and starts while they sleep, and it requires treatment to prevent further problems developing.  

Giving up smoking and lowering your alcohol intake can help with sleep apnoea, while some may be offered a CPAP machine, which gently pumps air into a mask you wear over your mouth or nose while you sleep.  

If you are struggling to sleep because of complications related to diabetes then you can contact your healthcare team for advice.  

How much sleep should I get? 

Most experts recommend that adults get 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night, children get 9-13 hours, and babies get 12-17 hours.  

Not getting enough sleep, or getting too much sleep, can impact our energy levels, motivation and emotions. If you’re constantly feeling tired during the day, you probably do not get enough sleep.  

Most of us will have a bad night’s sleep now and then, but if you are regularly sleeping less than seven hours per night then this can increase the risk of poor health outcomes, such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression and increased pain. 

How to improve your quality of sleep  

young woman sad on sofa

Having good sleep habits, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, can help us to get better sleep.  

Here are some general tips to improve your sleep quality:  

  • Try to be more active during the day. 
  • Try to sleep on a comfortable mattress with comfortable pillows and covers.
  • Try to relax for at least an hour before you go to bed. 
  • Try to avoid alcohol before bed as this can disrupt your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake pattern over a 24- hour period) and directly interfere with your sleep cycle. 
  • Turn off artificial lights and screens, such as television and smartphones, as these can offset your sleep cycle and confuse the body when you are about to go to sleep. 
  • Turn down the heating or use a fan to circulate air, which may help improve your sleep quality. 
  • Set time limits on your social media use before bed. 

Get more support with diabetes and sleep

If you're struggling with sleep and diabetes, and need advice or someone to listen, we’re here to support you. You can call our helpline on 0345 123 2399 or email

You can also join our online forum and chat to other people who might be having similar sleep problems as you. 

Next Review Date
Content last reviewed
23 August 2023
Next review due
23 August 2026
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