New Beginnings Mini-Lesson: Sleep Health

Key points

  • Getting enough sleep is important for overall health. Poor sleep habits can make it hard for people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar.
  • It’s important to recognize challenges with healthy sleep habits, and how to overcome them.
  • Recognizing challenges with sleep and finding strategies to overcome them can help.


Discussion time: 15 minutes

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • List benefits of sleep for mental and physical health.
  • Assess their current sleep pattern and identify ways to improve it.


Use the Tips to Improve Sleep Health handout. Encourage participants to share their sleep score, and ways they could improve their sleep.

Relaxation technique: breathing and focus

  • Find a comfortable position in bed. Relax and notice your body and any sensations you're feeling. Feel the connection between your body and the surface you’re lying on. Release any tension and relax your muscles.
  • Focus your attention on your body. If your mind starts to wander to thoughts or worries, gently bring it back to your body.
  • Take a deep breath into your lower belly (not your chest) and feel your abdomen expand with air. Hold this position for a few seconds and then release it. Notice your belly rising and falling and the air coming in and going out a few times.
  • Continue to do this for a few minutes. Any time a thought crosses your mind, release that thought and refocus on the breath.

Sleep diary

You may find that you can fall asleep easily on some nights, but you have trouble on other nights. Consider keeping a sleep diary to figure out what does and doesn't work for your body.

Talking points and discussion questions

Talking points

Sleep is an essential part of life. It can be easy for some people but challenging for others. Some people take time to fall asleep, while others fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow.

Factors that contribute to poor sleep include:

  • Use of electronic devices before bed.
  • Light and noise distractions.
  • Pre-bedtime eating and drinking habits.
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression.
  • Medication side effects.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Daytime naps of more than 30 minutes.

Getting enough good sleep helps:

  • Keep your immune system strong.
  • Keep your blood sugar and blood pressure levels more consistent.
  • Balance hormone levels in the body, such as insulin, ghrelin (a hunger hormone), and cortisol (a stress hormone).
  • Make it easier for you to function mentally and physically in your daily life.

Sleep and chronic disease

Sleep helps your body stay strong and lowers your risk of developing chronic health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. It can also help lower your risk of diabetes-related complications.

When you don't get enough sleep on a regular basis, your hormone levels can change. You may have less insulin to balance your blood sugar, and more cortisol, a stress hormone that keeps you awake and makes it harder for insulin to do its job.

Too little sleep also increases your appetite by telling your body to release more of the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin and less of the hormone that signals that you're full.

Consider this example

Jenny is not sleeping well. She gets only 5 hours of sleep most nights. She drinks 2 glasses of wine and eats dinner right before going to bed. She doesn't have time to exercise because she works long hours. Also, streetlights outside her window make her room bright.

  • What might be getting in the way of Jenny's sleep?
  • What can she do to help improve her sleep?

When you feel overwhelmed by all of the things that you juggle each day, improving your sleep habits can seem impossible. But small changes to sleep habits can make a big difference. Even just improving your sleep habits on some nights during the week can help boost your energy levels.

How to use this mini-lesson

This lesson has resources and questions to lead a small group discussion with people who have diabetes. It can be used as part of an existing class or as a stand-alone activity.

This discussion can be led by:

  • A diabetes care and education specialist.
  • A health educator.
  • A community health worker.
  • Anyone with experience leading support groups.

Tips for going virtual

Take a few minutes at the beginning of the session to explain the ground rules for virtual sessions. For example:

  • Mute video or phone when not speaking.
  • Say your name before speaking (especially on the phone).
  • Participants are not required to have or use a video camera. They can use a photo of themselves instead.

During the activity, share the handout on the screen. Ask participants to type the number they used to rate their sleep (1 to 10) in the chat box. Ask them to share why they chose the number if they feel comfortable doing so. Use the interactive whiteboard feature to brainstorm ways to improve sleep habits.