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Sleep and diabetes study receives $3M grant

Pamela Martyn-Nemeth

Getting more sleep and establishing a regular sleep schedule is a common recommendation for maintaining and improving health, including for people with Type 1 diabetes. Short sleep patterns may affect how the body uses insulin, and irregular sleep schedules can affect glucose through changes in one’s circadian rhythm or biological clock.

But, how best to improve sleep? And, how can you get quality sleep when you’re trying to manage your blood sugar along with life’s other demands?

UIC Nursing associate professor Pamela Martyn-Nemeth, Department of Biobehavioral Nursing Science, has received a $3 million grant to help answer those questions.

Martyn-Nemeth received the grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for the study, “Sleep optimization to improve glycemic control in adults with Type 1 diabetes.”

The role of sleep in glycemic control is increasingly recognized in persons with Type 1 diabetes, or T1D. However, no specific recommendation has been given as to how to improve sleep. The study aims to determine if sleep optimization interventions can help those with T1D improve their sleep and glycemic control.

“One of the challenges with managing Type 1 diabetes is sleep. Many with T1D report not having normal sleep or a good night’s rest, sometimes for 10 years,” Martyn-Nemeth said. “They are afraid they’re going to run low and their setting alarms to check blood sugar. Or, they’re afraid they may run high. And, because they are worried about having highs and lows, they are sleeping horribly.”

Martyn-Nemeth and her colleagues will conduct a 12-week randomized controlled trial in 120 adults with T1D. Subjects in the sleep-optimization group will receive a wearable sleep tracker that can be monitored through a smart app, as well as information about healthy sleep habits, and brief phone counseling sessions.

Participants will be tested before the study using a research-grade sleep watch and continuous glucose monitor that will measure sleep and glucose levels. They’ll be retested at two other times during the study, then 24 weeks after the study’s end to measure sustainability.

“Our goal is to be able to develop strategies to improve sleep to be integrated into clinical care,” Martyn-Nemeth said.

Participants will be recruited through UI Health and the diabetes community. Participants need to have short sleep or variable sleep, be between 18 and 65 years old, have had T1D for at least a year, and have a willingness to improve their sleep.

Working with Martyn-Nemeth on the team are clinical professor Lauretta T. Quinn, visiting research assistant professor Alana Steffen, associate professor of clinical psychiatry Jennifer Duffecy, and associate professor of endocrinology/diabetes and metabolism Dr. Sirimon Reutrakul.

This study is supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R0DK121726) and has been approved by the University of Illinois Office for the Protection of Research Subjects (IRB Protocol 2020-0374).