Sex, Sleep and Diabetes. What You Should Know.


diabetes sleep sexWhat Happens To Your Sex Life When You Have Diabetes?

Diabetes can affect both men and women sexually in many ways. Some diabetics or diabetic couples may lead perfectly healthy sex lives although in some cases diabetes can cause sexual problems to arise. There are certain aspects that affect both men and women combined and others that are separate to each gender.

There are plenty of things that can affect your sexual health and cause loss of libido without having diabetes, although if you have previously failed at those treatments, diabetes may be the cause.  Poorly controlled diabetes can certainly be a factor in people who have a decrease in sexual functions and/or desire.

Physical and Mental Issues May Arise 

There are a number of combined issues that affect diabetics in both genders. Sexual function can affect you both physically and mentally. Some of the psychological effects on people include low self-esteem, poor self-image, stress, anxiety and depression.

A decrease in sex drive in both genders can come down to a range of things some including being tired, low libido and having to invest a large portion of your time into diabetes management.

Both high and low levels of blood sugars can also alter people’s moods affecting their sexual interest. In some diabetics certain medications can also decrease your libido, so it is important to tell your doctor if you think this may be the issue.


Problems Women May Encounter

In women there are various issues that can affect them sexually from nerves to hormones. Up to 35% of women with diabetes may experience nerve damage and specifically damage to nerves which stimulate sexual responses.

Nerves can be damaged due to poor control of diabetes and these can affect your sexual organs which play a role in stimulation, arousal and pleasure.

Some women also complain of little to no feeling in their genital area which makes arousal almost impossible.

These nerves also trigger a release of natural lubricants in the vagina although if the nerves are damaged the lubricant is not released resulting in painful dry sex, reduced ability to orgasm and the need for synthetic lubricants.

There is an increased risk of vaginal infections in women with diabetes including thrush and urinary tract infections. Both of these infections are unpleasant and make sex unbearable. Although treatment is available, they may be recurring.

When a woman has menstrual bleeding during her period, she can experience sudden and frequent drops in blood sugar levels. This can have a negative impact on sexual intercourse as most women will feel the drop and it will ruin the mood or they will have to stop and check their levels.

Some women will also need to check their levels before sex, making it feel like more of a task than a pleasant experience.

Pregnancy is also risky in diabetic women especially in the first crucial weeks of gestation. Blood sugars need to be closely monitored throughout the pregnancy and in the first few weeks when the fetus is forming it is important to keep the levels under control. Having a plan in place before pregnancy can be vital to the health of you and your baby.

There are a few issues related to diabetes that can make it hard to conceive naturally. There is an increased risk in women of getting PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) as well as an increased risk of obesity which also leads to complications and conception problems.

These need to be addressed and spoken about to your healthcare professional before trying for a baby.


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Problems Men May Encounter

Men with diabetes may experience a large range of decreased sexual functions from penile to hormone levels. Reduced testosterone levels can account for a low libido which can cause your desires for sexual intercourse to decrease. There are also a few issues surrounding the penis which can be affected by poorly maintained of blood sugar levels.

Erectile dysfunction is one of the main issues surrounding men with up to 50% of them experiencing it when they have had diabetes for 10 or more years. This can be due to the blood flow being affected from damaged or blocked vessels caused by diabetes.

Nerves can also stop an erection from happening. The nerves affect the brains ability to communicate the signal from the penis to the brain to tell it to form the erection.

Peyronie’s disease, or penile curvature, is another condition that is more likely to occur in men with diabetes. This condition occurs when a man develops scar tissue, also known as plaque, in the penis. This makes the penis curve when erected causing painful intercourse for the man and reducing sexual desire. Penile curvature can also cause erectile dysfunction.

Sexual difficulties are often over looked or not discussed openly with your partner or doctor as it is an embarrassing topic for most. Talking the problem over with your partner may help your relationship and encourage you to seek help.

It is important to remember that your healthcare professional deals with sexual function problems regularly and it is a normal issue to discuss and not something to be ashamed of. They can offer you treatment pathways to consider and check of any other underlying issues that may need further assistance.

How Diabetes Can Affect Your Sleep and Your Life

Being diagnosed with diabetes does not necessarily mean that you will have poor sleep habits. Nor do poor sleep patterns on their own cause diabetes.

However, there is an interplay between the two.

Diabetes symptoms can interfere with healthy sleep patterns, and poor sleep habits can contribute to behaviours that add to the risks of developing type 2 diabetes.

If your symptoms are poorly managed, you could end up having difficulty getting quality sleep. Here are some reasons as to why.

1) High blood sugar levels can induce frequent urination, therefore, getting up several times at night just to urinate can indeed affect sleep.

2) If your blood glucose levels rise, your body is more likely to draw water from your tissues. This creates a feeling of thirst. If you have these feelings at night, chances are you’ll be getting up more often and this can certainly affect your sleep.

3) If you are hypoglycemic, which means your blood sugar runs lower than the normal range, you may feel dizzy. This most usually affects insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetics. Other symptoms of hypoglycemia include shaking and sweating, and these can make it too hard for you to sleep too.


Practice Good Sleep Habits to Improve Blood Sugar Regulation

The human body loves routines. This is why any disruption to the body’s routine can have an adverse impact on your overall health. If the risks of diabetes are to be reduced, you need to establish healthy routines.

If you haven’t been paying attention to your sleep routine, now is the time to do so.

Below are some tips to help you start establishing healthy sleep patterns and thereby reducing your diabetes risk.


  • If you have sleep apnea, take action!

One way to do this is to use a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). This is a device that helps ensure you get enough oxygen every night while you sleep. Studies have already shown that those who use CPAP were able to improve their glycemic control.


  • Stick to a schedule – Go to bed early!

Make it a habit to go to bed early. Your body needs sleep for so many important reasons! Create a bedtime and morning wake up routine and stick to it.


  • Don’t use mobile devices before bed or in bed.

The light emitted from your tablet or smartphone sends signals and messages to your brain that it’s not yet time to sleep. Plus, if you keep on using your mobile devices once you’ve got into bed, you’re not giving your brain a chance to unwind. You are actually stimulating it.


  • Avoid drinking too much fluid before going to bed.

This is to avoid having to urinate a couple of times in the middle of the night. Avoid alcoholic drinks and caffeinated beverages, as these contribute to headaches, poor sleep quality, and the need to urinate frequently.


  • Check your sleep environment.

It has to be cool or warm enough to promote feelings of relaxation. If it’s noisy, do something about it by blocking the sound coming into your bedroom. If you can’t because the sounds are out of your control, you may like to try wearing ear-plugs.


  • Daytime napping required? Keep your daytime naps short.

If you need to nap during the day, they shouldn’t last for more than 20 minutes. If they do, you run the risk of staying awake past midnight. This is because your body feels that it has already been through its sleep mode.

If you follow these steps to get good quality sleep, your body will thank you in so many ways. It will also reduce your risk of developing or worsening type 2 diabetes and help keep your blood glucose levels within a healthy range.