|If you have trouble sleeping, it’s essential that you consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis of these issues. Type 1 diabetes may not necessarily be the cause. There are a lot of factors that may explain or cause sleep issues: cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, or psychological issues, etc.|
It’s not unusual to hear that diabetes has an effect on sleep.
On top of the various reasons which may cause trouble sleeping, and for which a healthcare professional should be consulted, Type 1 diabetes can occasionally be the culprit behind those restless, disrupted nights.
So, why does Type 1 diabetes disturb your sleep, and how can you minimize its impact? We take a look here.
When diabetes goes into alarm clock mode
Hypos and hypers
We’ve all been woken up by our Type 1 diabetes at some point or another… Whether it’s because of hyperglycemia which has you rushing to the bathroom, or hypoglycemia which has you needing a glucose boost at 3 a.m. After a quick check of your blood sugar levels, for hypers, while you’re up, you might as well take the opportunity for a bolus or injection; for hypos, there’s only one thing for it: get your blood sugars back up to normal. Fruit juice is practical as the sugars are quickly absorbed.
Waking up to birds tweeting? No, more like alerts beeping…
For those who don’t feel the effects of night-time hypoglycemia, continuous blood sugar monitors emit sound alerts when the reading drops below a certain level. Not the nicest of alarms, but all the same, necessary for avoiding a major glycemic crisis!
Speaking of alarms… All (or almost all) insulin pumps have alert systems, either to indicate that the insulin reservoir is almost empty, or to notify you that you have an issue, such as an occlusion. Before going to bed, make sure that there’s insulin left in the pump, as this will avoid wake-up calls in the middle of the night, meaning you’ll enjoy a better night’s sleep. As for an occlusion, it’s better to be safe than sorry and interrupt your night’s sleep for a few minutes to fix the issue.
How can you get back to sleep?
It’s not always easy to nod back off after being woken up by your blood sugar monitor. Some people manage to doze off again by just closing their eyes, but it’s not that simple for everyone. Breathing techniques, meditation, or relaxation exercises can help you unwind and fall back asleep. Think about it
Get ready for bedtime
Avoiding being woken up in the middle of the night by your Type 1 diabetes requires some preparation: dietary regulation and pump monitoring.
A rich meal has never been helpful in promoting a good night’s sleep. Even if carbohydrates can help make you sleepy, a healthy, well-balanced meal is recommended. Tasty salads with a variety of vegetables, warming vegetable soups in winter, and fruit as desserts (avoiding cakes which are generally heavy and more difficult to digest) will all be your friends when it comes to enticing the sandman’s visit.
It’s also worth noting that proteins can delay sleep. So, be careful not to overdo them during your evening meals. Conclusion: avoid eating meat in the evening when living with Type 1 diabetes!
We can’t say it enough: physical exercise has many benefits for your body, period. By enjoying sports during the day, your body will be in better stead for a good night’s sleep. However, make sure not to exercise just before going to bed. This will have the opposite effect, and you may find it hard to get to sleep.
Where does Type 1 diabetes come into all this?
Diet and exercise are essential for creating a good balance when managing diabetes. Following our tips above will help obtain stable blood sugar levels, and, in turn, help you get a better night’s sleep.
If you feel the need, feel free to check your blood sugar levels before going to bed and, if necessary, correcting any hypo or hyper readings. Wait for a few moments before going to bed and relax!
Please note: for people who work night shifts, particular care needs to be taken with blood sugar levels, as your internal cycle, or your “biological clock” will be offset.
The day after a bad night’s sleep
Not getting a good night’s sleep risks setting you up for a bad day. It’s never been scientifically proven that not sleeping well influences blood sugar levels, but some people living with Type 1 diabetes feel that they experience a cause-and-effect link between the two, in both ways. After a bad night’s sleep, you may experience hypos or hypers without any real explanation.
It’s also important to note that sleep plays an important role in digestion. When you’re sleeping, hormones are produced to help with digestion and to help manage appetite during the day. Disrupted or insufficient sleep will alter these hormone secretions. So, perhaps that’s why some people feel there’s a link?
And how does this affect our loved ones’ sleep?
Parents of kids living with Type 1 diabetes can also endure disrupted nights as they have to manage their child’s diabetes. Even if sleeping next to your cell phone isn’t recommended, it can be reassuring for parents to have it on-hand. Thanks to connected devices, they can be quickly notified if their child has a hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia during the night and then react quickly.
The partner of a person living with Type 1 diabetes can also have to deal with unsettled nights caused by noise and lights when the other person has to get up because of their diabetes. They may even wake up voluntarily to help their partner, who may need them to bring them something to boost their blood sugar levels if they feel too weak to get up themselves.
Why not keep a supply of sugar cubes, juice boxes or soda cans in the bedside table? It’s worth a shot if it could avoid having to get up and disrupt your partner’s sleep, isn’t it?
So, diabetes may cause its fair share of disruptions during the night, but there are tips and tricks for everyone to help secure a good night’s sleep.
Goodnight, sleep tight!