Sleep and Relax to Prevent Diabetes

waking upIf you read my previous post on the top three ways to prevent diabetes then you know eating healthy, exercising more, and losing weight (especially belly fat) are keys to preventing diabetes. But there are actually lesser-known actions that can help you slash your diabetes risk because they help you stick to the “top three” more effectively. In this post, I’ll describe how sleep and stress management can help prevent and control diabetes.

Manage Stress

Is it me or are most people pre-wired for high anxiety and the go-go-go mentality? Work pressures. The economy. Life drama. No matter what day it is, you can bet there’s something going on that is making your blood boil. You don’t see it, but it’s killing you.

Chronic stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death. The link between stress and diabetes is hormonal. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a stress hormone that increases with severe or prolonged stress. The main effect of the hormone is increased food intake, increased proportion of energy stored as fat, and decreased physical activity. Uh oh. If you read the post on preventing diabetes, you know that excess fat, especially in the belly area, significantly increases your diabetes risk.

Point well taken. So how the heck do you calm down? My quick tips for stress management are very basic.

  1. Say “no.” Don’t put too much on your plate. The overcommitment increases stress levels, eats up valuable free time for nutrition and exercise, and frankly wears you out unnecessarily.
  2. Just breath. When you feel the stress piling on, take five minutes and lie on your back in a quiet room only focusing on your breath. The drop in blood pressure also allows your crazed stress hormones to take a reprieve.
  3. Sip on herbal tea. Teas like peppermint, ginger, or chamomile are very soothing and help you come down from that stress frazzle.

But there’s one more thing that can weigh down the risk for diabetes. Yes, sleep.


Research shows that people who get less than six hours of sleep are 4.5 times more likely to have problems controlling their blood sugar – and that, my friends, leads to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. What’s more, lack of sleep also throws your hungry/full hormones out of whack so when you don’t get sleep, you’re hormonally hungrier the next day thanks to higher levels of ghrelin (the “grow” hormone).

So, cheat yourself of sleep (maybe due to poor stress management) and now you’re hunger hormone is raging like a teenage boy at cheer camp. Of course you’re going to overeat and gain weight, which takes us back to our “top three” ways of preventing diabetes… eating healthy, exercising, and losing weight.

Behavior change starts with awareness. What can you do today to make yourself more aware of your behaviors?

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