If you have diabetes, you may think that keeping your blood sugar levels in check means eating right and working out. But while diet and exercise certainly play a big role, there’s more to managing diabetes.

Many overlooked factors, including sleep patterns, illness, dental care, and stress are also important in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

Sleep apnea

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) describes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as a sleep disorder in which breathing stops during sleep, often for 10 seconds or longer. This can happen numerous times during the night, and it can wreak havoc on an individual’s blood sugar levels.

Most people with sleep apnea aren’t aware they stop breathing. It’s often their bedmates that notice their snoring, restless sleep, and bouts of gasping for air.

OSA can also trigger:

  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • daytime sleepiness
  • forgetfulness
  • high blood pressure
  • low testosterone levels in men
  • heart irregularities

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent or limit sleep apnea. Obesity is one of the leading causes of sleep apnea so maintaining a healthy weight is key when it comes to reducing, and possibly eliminating, nighttime episodes. Also, smoking and alcohol consumption can worsen sleep apnea symptoms.

If these measures don’t help, your physician may prescribe continuous positive airway pressure. This treatment involves wearing a mask over the nose while sleeping to keep airways open and allow for better breathing.


At the first sign of a bacterial infection, the body produces stress-related hormones that help fight the illness. This causes blood sugar levels to spike.

When you’re sick, your normal everyday activities and appetite will also change. To combat the effects on your blood sugar, try sticking to your food plan as much as possible. Crackers, applesauce, and gelatin are easy on the stomach but also may lead to high blood sugars, which is why it’s important to check your glucose levels more frequently during times of illness. And don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and other unsweetened liquids.

Every person with diabetes should have a sick-day plan. This should include instructions on what medications are safe, how to check urine ketone levels, and ways to adjust insulin dosage.

Dental care

According to the ADA, research has shown that people with diabetes are vulnerable to dental problems such as gingivitis as well as serious gum disease (periodontitis). These problems can also greatly affect blood sugar levels.

Because of this, it’s important for people with diabetes to maintain good oral health by brushing and flossing regularly and scheduling routine checkup appointments. Keep your dentist informed of any changes in your medication or any dental concerns you might have.

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  • If your nights are disturbed by sleep apnea, those disruptions can have a nasty effect on your blood sugar levels. The best way to limit — and, ideally, prevent — sleep apnea from robbing you of valuable slumber is to maintain healthy weight and avoid alcohol and smoking.


The Mayo Clinic says stress is a leading contributor to increased blood sugar levels. Here are some ways to manage stress:

  • Set limits and learn to say “no” to those who demand too much of your time and attention.
  • Never take on more than you can handle. Look over your daily chores and eliminate what isn’t absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid people who cause you stress. Sometimes this is easier said than done, especially if it’s a family member you see often. If there’s no way to end the relationship, then do your best to limit the amount of time you spend with that person.
  • Always make time to exercise and stay physically active.

Creating balance in your life through healthy lifestyle changes can help you manage your diabetes and your overall health.