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Want Better Glucose Management? Find a Daytime Job

I was diagnosed in 2009 with type 2 diabetes. My A1C was 10.5% (the equivalent of an average blood glucose level of 240 mg/dL over a 2-3 month span) – which is about a little over twice as much as normal. It was challenging, but I worked hard at controlling my diet and got those levels down to near normal (or within the 5% range.)

You can imagine my surprise when in 2012 my numbers started sky-rocketing into the 200 mg range again. What was happening? Was I suddenly getting worse? I wasn’t eating anything different… so what was going on?

The answer was less straightforward (and quite more reasonable) than I thought: I had gotten a temporary job working overnights for a local big box store and I was sleeping days and having overnight meals. My body was struggling to handle glucose, and pumping excess insulin again.

Can working overnights hurt our blood glucose management?

It’s been a slow-growing body of evidence, but yes, working overnights can impact our glucose levels. Christopher Morris, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the Medical Chronobiology Program of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass, did a study in 2013 in which he tested healthy individuals (persons without diabetes). He compared day time shift work and night time shift work, by using a regimented diet and testing routine. The study showed that individuals who worked a simulated night shift had 16 percent higher blood glucose levels, as well as 40-50% higher insulin levels after meals, than those who worked one day of simulated shift work, instead. Researchers think it might be likely that working these kinds of shifts may drastically disrupt our internal biological clocks: our body’s hormonal production cycles, sleeping cycles, eating cycles, etc.

The results are alarming, because from what scientists know, type 2 diabetes may be triggered by chronic glucose impairment, as well as a chronic and excessive amount of insulin in the body. This is one of the reasons why there is a strong focus on weight loss as a form of prevention – because it leads to these same results. But what are we doing to raise awareness about the effects of working overnight shifts and even sleep deprivation?

The sad truth is that our society is not only in an obesity crisis – it is also in a sleep deprivation crisis which has mostly gone ignored. An estimated 8.6 million Americans work overnight (or have a rotating shift), and researchers have found that working these kinds of shifts was associated with a 42 percent increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. That’s a comparable risk to being obese. But just being chronically sleep deprived may lead to a diabetes diagnosis, as well as make glucose management challenging for those who already have it.

The individuals in these studies didn’t have diabetes – they were better equipped than a person with diabetes at handling excess glucose. Imagine how much more challenging when our bodies are not working right? So don’t skimp out on sleep! Getting enough restful sleep should be of utmost importance to us, as part of an effective glucose management program. It is a healing, restorative process that helps our bodies properly regulate, and balance themselves.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.