It was actually the second night after James was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This night, unlike the previous, crazed evening spent in the ER, was in the private room of the pediatric ward of our local hospital. I was struggling to catch some winks, but it seemed like every time I dozed off, I would be awakened by a nurse coming in to check James’ blood sugar, do a blood draw or perform some other task. As the future mother of four, little did I know that this would be the beginning of a lifetime of interrupted sleep!
While regular nighttime blood sugar checks are not necessary for some, they are still a part of our routine when, as on many occasions, we have an atypical day. I might need to check blood sugar at night if James is coming down with a cold, if he’s on a growth spurt, if he ate unusual foods, if he was super active, or if his continuous glucose monitor says he’s out of range and alerts me that I need to check him. So sleep (or lack thereof) is something that is constantly on my mind.
Is it possible to be well rested nonetheless? As an experienced mom of a 10-year-old with diabetes (and also a newborn, I might add), I can say … yes. Mostly.
And I’m being totally honest. I need to add the caveat that every child is different and every family has different needs and different values. But speaking for our family, we have found a way to get enough rest to function well and be happy.
Here’s what we do:
First, we concentrate on the easy nights. The rough nights, in which I might spend an hour or more getting James’ blood sugar into a decent range, are MUCH more bearable when I’ve taken care of myself on the easy nights. Craig and I really try to get to bed at a decent, regular hour so we are rested most of the time.
Second, we take turns. Craig is a great partner in this way. Sometimes when we’re watching James very closely, Craig will stay up a little late and I’ll be on the alert during the early hours of the morning. We both are better rested that way.
Third, following a rough night, we go to bed early or we take naps. This one is hard for me. I love being able to unwind with Craig in the evening, but if I’m tired, I go to sleep instead. My sense of being well rested is important to me and to our family. With our large family, naps are usually confined to the weekend.
Fourth, we keep our bedroom really restful. If I’m up early or late monitoring James’ blood sugar, I don’t wait in my room; I usually come out to the room where my computer is. Being online is a pleasure, but it keeps me awake. So I’ve learned to respect that inclination and keep all technology out of the bedroom. I know this is a personal preference — lots of people fall asleep to the TV or other screens — but that doesn’t work for me.
Fifth, we’ve worked with our diabetes care team to put together a regimen that helps James stay stable at night. It’s worth it to us to make tiny tweaks to our regimen so that his blood sugar stays more even and we get more rest. We try to stay alerted to the trends and make continual changes (with our endocrinologist’s help) so that James can continue to have great numbers overnight.
Finally, we try to keep our stress in check. I could write a whole post about how to do that. Instead I’ll just say that by enjoying the evening with Craig and knowing where James’ blood sugar is when he goes to bed, I feel less stress. Ironically, sleeping well also helps me feel less stress, which in turn makes it easier to sleep!
I guess that’s what I really see more than anything else: Good sleep has been possible in our family because we have made it a priority. We still have hard nights, but because we sleep well MOST of the time, they’re much more bearable.
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.