It was one of those days — those unusual days where nothing is predictable. James’ blood sugars had been off all day. The morning routine had been disrupted. James spent two hours jumping on a trampoline with a buddy. Then he ate pizza for dinner. Then his pump site failed sometime between after school and when he got into bed at night. And I knew that it was going to be a sleepless night for me.
For some time now, we’ve had pretty good predictability with regard to James and his overnight numbers. We still have plenty of factors that change this — everything from illness to exercise to yummy Christmas treats — but most days I know pretty much what to expect in the nighttime. Our continuous glucose monitoring device, which is now working fabulously for our family, helps facilitate this for us and gives us really good sleep most nights.
THIS night, however, I knew was going to be different. See, James went to bed only slightly high. But between the site failure, the meal and the exercise, what could happen next was anyone’s guess. And so I spent quite a few waking hours getting James’ blood sugars into a good range, hoping that by doing so, the NEXT day wouldn’t be quite so unpredictable.
But this post isn’t really about what we did during the night. Sure, we checked blood sugars, issued corrections through the pump and at one point needed to give some fast-acting sugar. But this post is more about how to survive the aftermath of a sleepless diabetes night.
Everybody is different. Still, thinking about my experiences that night I thought I might share a few strategies for handling “the day after” a tough night. These have served me well, and I hope you might find them helpful too!
First, I try to be kind to myself. I did something heroic, necessary and difficult. I’m caring for a human being and am handling mentally challenging, physically exhausting and emotionally straining tasks. I have every right to be tired! So if you’re tired, be nice to yourself!
Second, I try to keep the mindset that I can still get stuff done today, but I might be moving a little slower than usual. I’m deliberate and just try to get through the day. My to-do list is short. My advice is to try to be satisfied with your own best effort. Don’t stress. Slow down.
The flip side to that, too, is that it’s easier to be kind to others by slowing your reaction time. When I’m tired and feel cranky, I find my temper runs hotter, and I’m more easily annoyed by stuff my kids do all the time that doesn’t usually bother me a bit. By employing the technique of mindfully choosing a slower pace, I can choose to be cheerful or, at the very least, refrain from grumpiness.
Next, I find that drinking lots of water, going for a walk (if possible) or doing other exercise and trying to consciously eat healthier foods makes me feel better throughout the day despite the sleep deprivation. Also, I try to spend a few minutes outside in nature.
Finally, I try hard to make it so that I DON’T have a repeat sleepless night. This may seem elementary, but you’d be surprised. Oftentimes the troubled nights come in batches. If you think that the night might be long again, try to do whatever you can to still get as much quality rest as possible. Go to bed extra early if you think you’ll need to wake up to test blood sugar. If you can sneak in a short nap, I find those to be restorative too. See if you can split the night in two with your spouse. He can take the early evening hours, letting you sleep, and you’ll be “on call” after you get several hours of rest. It really does make a difference.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.