Pain and Sleep: Diabetic Neuropathy
According to the American Diabetes Association diabetes affects more than 29.1 million Americans, approximately 9.3% of the population. Diabetes is an endocrine disorder, meaning that it affects hormone levels. Although much of the attention is paid to the effects of diabetes on the blood sugar levels and the cardiovascular system, diabetes can also harshly affect sleep. One of the most common complications of diabetes is known as diabetic neuropathy, a pain condition that can disrupt the sleep cycle.
What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot effectively respond to the hormone, insulin. In healthy individuals, insulin sends signals to our cells to tell them to pull excess glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream. This keeps blood sugar levels within a healthy range, allowing us to function normally. When the body alters its production of insulin or becomes less sensitive to the hormone, cells no longer receive these signals and do not properly clear glucose from the bloodstream. This leads to episodes of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar. Upon being diagnosed with diabetes, individuals can begin taking medications and enact major lifestyle changes in attempts to achieve glycemic control.
Diabetes is a systemic disease, meaning that it has widespread effects on multiple body systems. For example, the nervous system can be severely affected by diabetes in a condition known as diabetic neuropathy, one of the leading complications due to diabetes. There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy, each with its own unique symptoms: