The relationship between stress and sleep is weird. When I’m stressed, the best way for me to feel instantly way better is to get a good night’s sleep. But of course, when I’m stressed, that’s when it’s hardest to actually get some good quality rest! There are lots of reasons for this, and caring for James’ type 1 diabetes is only one of them — it’s everything from being too busy and burning the candle at both ends to having a mind that just won’t let me fall or stay asleep. I feel like I’ve experienced all of that lately.
I guess the key to breaking the cycle is to find a way during the waking hours to reduce stress, so that sleep is possible, therefore enabling better rest and less stress! I’m not an expert at any of these things, but I have three techniques that have helped me a lot in the past few weeks.
Drop the Non-Essentials
First, I’ve been really trying hard to eliminate non-essential sources of stress. This is a hard exercise, and nobody can tell us what an “essential” thing is and what is completely non-essential. I firmly believe that we all need to determine that for ourselves. Here’s my real-life example: This week, I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about a costume that I needed to make for one of James’ school projects. The costume portion was not even really graded, and James frankly didn’t care very much at all. But for whatever reason, probably because I’m the daughter of an awesome seamstress and costume-maker extraordinaire, I felt like I needed to make his costume look really cool. I was totally stressed about something that mattered very little to both of us!
Don’t Drop the Essentials
In contrast, I think having a child with type 1 diabetes automatically makes us more conscious of general health concerns, and health is one of my “essentials.” Getting good sleep, drinking a lot of water, and eating well are more important than ever for my family, in part because James has diabetes. I actually think that our attention to health is one of the positive side effects of his diagnosis. I think prioritizing health is only hard if we don’t allow enough time, space, energy and thought to putting that at the top of our lists. Honestly, when I look at my week, if I write down the things we need to do to stay healthy, I’m much more certain not to get stressed. The health of my family is essential to me, and when I put the proper emphasis on maintaining healthy practices, I feel less stress.
Know the Difference
Lastly, planning — which is closely related to my first two techniques — helps to keep our essential priorities at the top of the list. It helps me to more easily see where I can devote less thought to things that are of less worth to our family. I like to do what I call a “brain dump” in my journal. I’ll write down absolutely everything worrying me that pops into my head, and I won’t stop writing until I feel peace. What’s nice is that usually by the end of the rant, I feel better and I have a better idea about what I actually need to do and can go forward. To me, once I out my worries, categorize them, analyze them, and either solve them or realize they aren’t important, they leave me alone and I can rest!
Once I get my mind quieted, I find that I can get a good night’s sleep — sometimes. Yes, my sleep is sometimes disrupted by dealing with concerns with James’ blood sugar. Things happen. Extraordinary days lead to low (or high) blood sugars. Sometimes sites and sensors fail and we need to fix them. But a lot of what I’m worried about in the night is really related to other sources of stress. Because I care so much about James, because I prioritize his health, I need to care for mine too. I need to be able to reduce my stress, using the techniques above, so that I can sleep and be the best mom I can be for James and for me.
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.