I’m actually pretty dozed as I write this, so it’s an appropriate post for today, I think. Sleep. It serves quite a number fo handy and necessary functions for the proper health of one’s body. Sleep is thought to contribute to overall brain health and allows a better focus and concentration when awake, among other things like letting your body rest and recharge after a long day.
There are quite a number of benefits and functions that take place while we sleep for the night, which I’ve covered in previous posts so I won’t delve into those too deeply here. Although a lot of what I‘ve read and researched tells me that science can’t confirm without a doubt why sleep is necessary for the functions it provides, I CAN say that I like it. A lot. Sleep rocks. I only wish that I had recognized this at a younger age when I could have gotten more of it. this is a lesson I struggle to impart on my 6-year old son. But I digress…
If you have Type-1 Diabetes, you may find yourself having difficulty sleeping at the best of times. In fact, depending on how well your blood sugars are controlled, sleep may be as elusive as trying to grab that stray hair down the back of your shirt that has you squirming and drives you batty. Of course, I don’t have that problem, being bald and all…. Did I mention I was a bit tired, this morning?
On average, sleep helps with energy conservation, elimination of bodily toxins and waste and helps with the body’s immune responses. Not to mention that lack of sleep will lead to lack of concentration and alertness, and will likely leave you moody and cranky. Ever try to deal with someone who hasn’t gotten a full night’s sleep? They usually aren’t all rainbows and sunshine. Add some chaotic Diabetic symptoms into that mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Here are my top 5 ways that Diabetes usually disturbs my sleep:
1. Diabetic Neuropathy: If you or someone close to you has Diabetes, you’ve likely heard this term before. For Diabetics, neuropathy is nerve damage that can develop over time. Although there are a number of things that can cause it, such as damaged blood vessels due to high cholesterol, the cause for Diabetics is usually attributed to high blood sugar levels over a long period of time, which can damage nerves and cause something known as “restless leg syndrome.” This is usually the bad boy that keeps me up at night. Basically, your limbs feel unsettled and one gets the urge to move and adjust them in order to gain relief. That relief is usually short-lived as the unsettled feeling returns within moments. It can be an excruciating pain in the ass, especially in the middle of the night when you’re trying to sleep.
2. High Blood Sugar Levels: The thing about Diabetes is that multiple sources will site certain symptoms for high blood sugar (like my favourites, WebMD and HealthLine.ca), but symptoms are subjective to the person. For example, most sources will cite aggression as being a symptom of low blood sugar. But I’ve always experienced the bad moods and crankiness when my levels were high. Anyway, if you hit a high in the middle of the night, you can potentially experience cramping, nausea, dry mouth, thirst, urge to urinate frequently and a partridge in a pear tree! Not to mention that annoying “hot but not” feeling where you kind of sweat but aren’t really warm. SO annoying…
3. Low Blood Sugar Levels: If you thought highs were bad, lows can be much worse. At least in my opinion. At least highs will sometimes make you sleepy, which can be handy if it’s the middle of the night. So long as you don’t mind little issues like ketoacidosis or the various damage you’re doing to your eyes and other organs. But you may sleep through the night and wake to correct and bring your blood sugars down. But when you’re low, it requires immediate action. If you’re lucky enough to have a “tell” (a symptom that will wake you due to a low), then you get the pleasure of crawling out of bed to grab some fast-acting carbs to get you back to normal. For me, my body will feel numb and I’ll feel off in general. It’s usually enough to wake me from a deep sleep. the hardest part is the lethargy that accompanies a low, as it urges you to just close your eyes and keep sleeping. But even once you treat the low, it’ll usually take some time for your body to start feeling normal so you can drift back to sleep.
4. Dehydration: Here’s the thing; dehydration isn’t JUST a Diabetes thing, but we’re prone to it. And dehydration will cause a lot of the nasty symptoms that fluctuating blood sugars will: thirst (obviously), pains and cramping, discomfort, nausea, dizziness and confusion…. And of course, dehydration will affect one’s blood sugars. Oh, and blood sugars will affect your level of hydration. Fun, right? That’s why it’s so important to keep your fluid intake steady and drink plenty of water.
5. The Insulin Pump: Last, but certainly not least is the insulin pump. this one is obviously subjective to whether or not you use one in your therapy. But never in my life has an electronic device been such a light-send while simultaneously being a pain in my ass. Blood sugars are steady and normal for more than 2.5 hours? Better beep incessantly and request a BG check, JUST in case! Been micro-bolusing for more than an hour? Better set off an alarm, even if blood sugars are sitting at 9.5 mmo/L! Although I have the best A1C’s I’ve ever had in my life, the pump has disadvantages as there are some alarms that can’t be silenced. And the pump doesn’t discriminate against what time of day (or night) that it may be, so I get woken often even if things are smooth and normal. In fact, often BECAUSE things are smooth and normal. And people wonder why I get testy against technology; even when it helps, it also hinders.
There you have it; my top 5 reasons that Diabetes wakes me up at night. Let’s not forget, as negative as my sleep-deprived perspective may be this morning, that outside factors such as stress, illness and weather will affect blood sugars and cause most if not all of the above-mentioned scenarios. Therefore, this is the part of our day where I remind everyone to eat a proper diet, get regular exercise, stay hydrated and test your blood sugars often. You’ll sleep better at night. Pun fully intended. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a nap…☯️