The NDSS is administered by Diabetes Australia


Did you know that getting enough sleep can help your manage your diabetes? If you’re struggling to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range, a good night’s sleep might help.

Sleep is essential for your good health

When your sleep well, you can manage your diabetes more easily, since you’ll feel more energised and motivated to stay active. But if you’re not getting enough sleep, it can make it harder to manage your blood glucose levels.

So, let’s talk about how your sleep habits might be affecting your diabetes, and what you can do to get a better night’s sleep.

Benefits of a good night’s sleep

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A good night’s sleep can help you manage blood glucose levels.
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A good night’s sleep improves your overall health and wellbeing.

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A good night’s sleep can help increase your energy during the day.

A good night’s sleep can make it easier for you to make better food and drink choices.

Cortisol: The ‘wake up’ hormone

Did you know that when you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol? Cortisol can keep you awake and make it harder to fall asleep.
Dawn phenomenon

Dawn phenomenon

It’s normal for your body to release cortisol in the morning to help you wake up and start your day. This is called the “dawn phenomenon”. The “dawn phenomenon” can raise your fasting blood glucose levels and make it challenging to manage your diabetes at the start of the day.

How sleep impacts your cortisol levels

If you’re not getting enough sleep, your cortisol levels can become irregular, which can make your blood glucose levels higher than usual.

How high cortisol levels can impacts your diabetes

If you have high cortisol over a long period of time, it can make it even harder to manage your diabetes.

Why people with type 1 diabetes may not get enough sleep

If you have type 1 diabetes, you might find it hard to get to sleep, or to get enough of it. A bad night’s sleep can be caused by a number of things.

  • Waking to check blood glucose levels
  • Having, or worrying about having, low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia or hypo for short) at night
  • Having high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) which can make you want to wee a lot at night.

Sleeping less and eating more

If you don’t sleep well, you might start craving foods that cause your blood glucose levels to rise quickly. These foods usually have a lot of added sugars, and they can make it harder to manage your blood glucose levels.

When you’re tired, it can also affect your mood and motivation, and make you less likely to be physically active. And if you’re not eating well, it can be even harder to manage your blood glucose levels.

So, if you want to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range, it’s important to get enough sleep, eat well and be physically active.

When lack of sleep becomes a problem

Ask your diabetes health professional for advice if you notice a pattern of high glucose levels early in the morning.

They may suggest:

  • checking your blood glucose patterns during the night
  • reviewing your medications, including adjusting your overnight (basal) insulin
  • adjusting your basal insulin profile if you’re are on an insulin pump.

Getting a good night’s sleep can help you manage your diabetes and reduce high blood glucose levels in the morning.

Sleep and school

Did you know only around 14 of 100 Australian teenagers aged between 13 and 18 years get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night?

Children and teenagers might find it difficult to focus, concentrate and solve problems without enough sleep. This can impact their studies.

The recommendations for sleep every night are: 

Children 11-13 years need 9-11 hours

Teenagers 14-17 years need 8-10 hours

Are you a bedtime worrier?

Sleep plays an important role in your emotional and physical health. 

If you don’t get enough sleep, it can put you at risk of depression and anxiety. It can also make it challenging to keep up with your study and managing at work. Is worrying about having a hypo overnight keeping you awake? Ask your diabetes health professional if using a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) or flash glucose monitoring (Flash GM) device that can alert you to low blood glucose levels might help you manage your concerns. 

Top tip

If you’re always worrying about things when you’re trying to get to sleep, try setting aside 30 minutes of “worry time” before going to bed. Write down your worries in a “worry book” or journal.Then close the book, get into bed, and remind yourself that you’ve done your worrying for the day.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Know how much sleep you need

Did you know teenagers need 8 to 10 hours sleep each night?

Tool 1. Your guide to a better night's sleep to help you manage your diabetes.

Too little

It looks like you’re getting less than 8 hours sleep each night. Have a look at the tips in Tool 2.

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Just right: 8-10 hours per night

Well done. How are you feeling? If you still feel tired, it might be worth checking in with your diabetes health professional.

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Too much

It looks like you’re getting more than 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. If you still feel tired, it might be worth checking in with your diabetes health professional.

Get to know your eating and sleeping hormones

Tool 2. Eat. Sleep. Wake. Repeat

Wake up: Cortisol

Helps you wake up. It’s also released in response to stress.

If you’re stressed or don’t have enough sleep over a long period, cortisol can increase your blood glucose level, making it harder to manage your diabetes.

Hunger: Ghrelin

Helps your body know when it’s hungry.

If you don’t get enough sleep, your body can produce more ghrelin. This can make you eat more, making it harder to manage your blood glucose levels and diabetes. 

Feeling full: Leptin

Helps your body to know when you’ve eaten enough.

If you don’t have enough sleep, your body produces less leptin. This means your body doesn’t know when you’ve eaten enough, making it harder to manage your blood glucose levels and diabetes.

Sleepiness: Melatonin

Helps your body know when it’s time to go to sleep.

Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and at a suitable temperature. This includes turning off all electronic devices such as TVs, mobiles phones and computers at least one hour before bedtime. Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed. Try to be consistent with the time you go to bed and wake up.

Tool 3. Your dreamy night’s sleep tips

The following tips are for people who haven't been diagnosed with insomnia but would like to improve their sleeping habits.

Get some sunshine
Go outside within 30 to 60 minutes of waking. Walk your dog or go for a walk. Do it again in the late afternoon, prior to sunset. 

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Regular bed time
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Your brain has a master clock that it likes to keep regular.

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Your brain and body need to drop your temperature by 1-3 degrees for you to fall and stay asleep. Try and keep your bedroom cool at around 18 degrees Celsius.

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We need darkness to trigger the release of melatonin. Make your room as dark as possible (i.e. digital clocks face away from your view) and go screen-free for at least 30 to 60 minutes before bed.

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Use your bedroom for sleep only
It sounds obvious but if you treat your bedroom like a living room where you watch television or chat to friends on the phone, your brain will associate your bedroom with activity.  Try doing your homework in another quiet space as well, if you can.

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Limit caffeinated drinks
Try not to have caffeine from around noon. That includes some soft drinks, energy drinks, and tea and coffee. 

Tool 4. Your 9-step sleep countdown


  • 7:00 am – Wake up, turn off the snooze button and get 10 minutes out in the sun.
  • 7:30 am – Have a balanced breakfast.
  • 8:00 am – Go for a walk outside before school or work.


  • 12:00 pm – Have a balanced lunch.
  • 1:00 pm – Avoid any caffeinated drinks.
  • 3:30 pm – Go for a walk outside to get your dose of natural light.


  • 6:00 pm – Have a balanced dinner. Try to finish eating your main meal at least 3 hours before bedtime. Take a quick walk outside to admire the sunset.
  • 7:00 pm – Start winding down and either turn off electronic devices, or limit blue light exposure from electronic devices.
  • 8:30 pm – Go to bed and have a great night’s sleep.

When you’ve had a bad night’s sleep

This tip might take you by surprise but if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, do nothing.

Stick to your usual routine. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day.

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Don’t wake up any later. 
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Don’t drink extra caffeine drinks to compensate.

If you need to nap, aim for a short nap (30-90 minutes)

And don’t go to bed any earlier the following night. 

Top sleep secrets

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Improving your sleep is important for managing diabetes. Start with one of these tips and add more once it becomes a habit.
Exercise regularly

Exercise regularly

Exercise helps your body get ready for sleep but try to exercise at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.

Eat a balanced meal

Eat regular meals throughout the day and avoid large meals before bed. Include carbohydrates (carbs), protein, and healthy fats to help you sleep better.

Limit fluids before bed

Try to avoid drinking large amounts of fluids 2 to 3 hours before bedtime to prevent waking to go to the toilet.

Clear your mind

Take a few minutes to write down anything that’s bothering you or things you need to do tomorrow to clear your mind before bed.

Try something new

Use apps like Smiling Mind, Headspace, Sleep Ninja or Simply Being to help you relax and fall asleep.