Diabetes affects your body's ability to use glucose, aka sugar. That's why, if you have the condition — or its precursor, prediabetes — it's important to keep your blood sugar levels in check to avoid complications.
Watching your diet, getting regular exercise and sticking to your medication routine are all crucial ways to manage diabetes and stabilize blood sugars, per the Mayo Clinic. But what else can you do on a daily basis to keep the condition under control?
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We asked endocrinologists for their recommendations on how to keep blood sugar stable throughout the day. Here's what they shared:
1. Get Enough Sleep
Lisal Jewel Stevens Folsom, MD, a pediatric and adult endocrinologist in Louisville, Kentucky, advises getting enough sleep. "Research shows that insulin resistance is more common in people who don't get enough sleep, so we should aim to consistently get restful sleep on a regular basis," she says.
And this can lead to a cycle where you wake up hungrier the next day and feel less full after eating, making you more likely to eat nutrient-poor foods high in sugar and saturated fat, which can then reinforce blood sugar imbalances.
But sometimes getting enough sleep is easier said than done. Here are Dr. Folsom's tips for falling and staying asleep, to help you get a quality snooze and keep blood sugar spikes at bay:
- Incorporate exercise into your day (but avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as the energy boost will make it harder to fall asleep).
- Establish a bedtime routine. For instance, take a warm shower, then listen to soothing music or try a meditation to help you wind down before bed.
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. Remove all screens, light and noise. Keep temperature levels comfortable.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake after noon, as both can interfere with sleep.
2. Drink More Water
Cutting out or limiting sugary drinks and alcohol are common suggestions for how to keep blood sugar stable, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
But that isn't the only hydration-related tip: Increasing water intake is also important. Angela Marshall, MD, internal medicine specialist in Silver Spring, Maryland, recommends drinking 60 to 84 ounces of water per day.
The science is not conclusive on increased water intake alone significantly lowering blood sugar, per an August 2017 review in Nutrients. But there is a definite risk for people with diabetes who don't drink enough water.
For one, there's less water in your body when you're dehydrated, meaning there's a higher concentration of blood sugar that can result in a spike, per the CDC. You may also urinate more when your blood sugars are high as your body works to get rid of excess glucose, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can reset the cycle of dehydration.
If you're out of the habit of drinking enough water, here are Dr. Marshall's tips to help you hydrate:
- Tie drinking water to a routine. For instance, drink a glass of water every time you eat a meal, go to the bathroom or brush your teeth.
- Make it a challenge: Start a friendly competition with family or friends to see who can hit their goal.
- Get a travel-friendly water bottle. Having water with you while you're on-the-go may make it easier to drink without interrupting your routine.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Want a more personalized estimate for how much fluid you should be sipping? Use this equation to determine how much water you should drink every day:
Body weight (in pounds) ÷ 2 = minimum ounces of water you should drink per day
3. Spend Time With Loved Ones
Stress can contribute to insulin resistance, Dr. Folsom says. Indeed, a July 2016 study in the Journal of Epidemiology found that chronic stress is linked to insulin resistance, and may even contribute to the development of the condition.
Why? Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline cause your body to be less sensitive to insulin, which means glucose builds up in your blood and can lead to high blood sugar levels, per the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
That's why stress reduction can be a panacea for blood sugar imbalances. "Spending time with the people I love reduces stress," Dr. Folsom says. "Remembering to be a human is so important in life. Making time with those we love a priority can strengthen relationships, decrease stress and improve our overall health."
In other words, when you're more relaxed and happy, your body is less stressed. This in turn lowers your levels of stress hormones to help your body respond better to insulin and thus stave off blood sugar spikes, per UCSF.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Sleep for a Good Cause"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Mixing Alcohol with Your Diabetes"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "10 Surprising Things That Can Spike Your Blood Sugar"
- Nutrients: "Prevention and Therapy of Type 2 Diabetes—What Is the Potential of Daily Water Intake and Its Mineral Nutrients?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes symptoms: When diabetes symptoms are a concern"
- Journal of Epidemiology: "Investigation of the Relationship Between Chronic Stress and Insulin Resistance in a Chinese Population"
- University of California, San Francisco: "Blood Sugar & Stress"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Diabetes Statistics"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.