"If I sleep right now I'll have 6 hours and 34 minutes."
"If I sleep right now I'll have 4 hours and 13 minutes.”
“If I sleep right NOW I’ll have 3 hours and 25 minutes.”
“If I sleep right.... ah forget it! Where’s the coffee?”
Sound familiar to anyone? This is a nightly pattern of mine that occurs 2/3 times a month, sometimes more. If I’m going through a stressful time, either in work or in my personal life, then I’ll often face a whole week of sleepless nights ending with me collapsing for 13 hours on the weekend.
Hours of tossing and turning, willing, pleading, begging myself to JUST. FALL. ASLEEP. Forget drifting off to the sweet image of ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ jumping over a fence, its more like being Clarice Starling in ‘Silence of the Lambs’!
It’s a given that when blood sugar levels are high a diabetic will have an awful night’s sleep and the majority of the time you can put this down to a process called urine diuresis. Basically, what is happening is your kidneys are struggling to keep the excess sugar in the bloodstream and so it spills over into your urine dragging lots of water with it… hence the million trips to the bathroom. When I have those night’s I think it might be easier to just take my duvet into the bath with me!
Simple solution would be to just get your sugars under control yes?
Easier said than done I find!
My problem lies in the fact that I start to get frustrated if I can’t sleep, which in turn raises my sugars even more. I quickly get into a vicious circle that I find very hard to break:
Getting a good night’s sleep is so important – we all know that. On a very basic level it makes us feel good, it enhances our productivity the next day and it gives our body the rest it needs to recover, both physiologically and psychologically.
Sufficient sleep is also linked to appetite control. Leptin production, the hunger-controlling hormone, is affected when our sleep isn’t up to scratch and so follows an increase in appetite and often insulin resistance. In fact, some studies show that people who get less sleep tend to be heavier than those who sleep well – the perfect recipe for the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
Studies have also shown that poor sleep in Type 1 diabetics can lead to higher HbA1c levels. How? I think it comes down to tiredness making us crave energy and therefore us reaching for high sugar foods. High sugar foods – spiked blood sugar levels – increased average blood sugar levels – high HbA1c.
Having diabetes certainly raises the risk for certain sleep problems and one that I experience quite often is restless leg syndrome (RLS). If anyone else suffers with this you’ll know how incredibly frustrating it is, to the point where I have spent many nights just walking around my apartment (a bit more difficult with this peg leg at the moment lol) for hours and hours!
RLS is a condition that can only be described as the uncontrollable urge to move your legs and it feels like you need to stretch or click your joints continuously. I find that the discomfort/pain gets better if I move my legs but it quickly comes back as soon as I rest them. Other remedies I’ve seen include having a bath, exercising, massaging etc. A lot of the things I’ve read online haven’t been too helpful to be honest – trial and error to figure out what works for you is what it comes down to.
So if counting sheep is well and truly out the window, what have I been doing?
1. To do:
I love a ‘to do’ list, to the point where I’ll actually add something I’ve already done to the list just to be able to tick it off … this is where a ‘see no evil’ monkey emoji would come in handy!
Please tell me I’m not the only weirdo who does this?! Lol.
Writing a list of the things I have to do the next day before I go to bed helps me stop worrying about forgetting something – the simplest, often common sense, solutions are the best.
Allow myself time to wind down before I get into bed. My brain is nowhere near ready to switch off and shut down if I’ve come straight from my computer or my study books. Again – another simple solution but one that works. Grab a trashy magazine or a fiction book, or watch some crap show on tv… anything that doesn’t require too much brain power.
It sounds silly ‘prepping’ yourself for sleep, but as a diabetic its essential. I start thinking about my blood sugars during the night at least 3 or 4 hours before I’m planning on going to bed. I’ve usually got enough time to get them to a level I’m happy with then, be it adjusting up or down.
When I was first diagnosed, I used to worry that I’d have a hypo during the night and not wake up, so I would make sure my levels were just a bit too high heading into the night – not something I’m too bothered about anymore, I know my body will always alert me. We’ve all been there with the cold sweats and the instant panic as soon as you come round and realise what is happening. THE most awful feeling in the world in my opinion. Now, I very rarely have to bring my sugar levels up before bed.
If I do its usually that my basal insulin dose needs looking at and adjusting. Bringing them down after dinner though is usually necessary.
Having high sugar levels is a guaranteed crappy night, as I said above, so making sure my levels are sub 8/9 before bed is a priority for me now.
A friend of mine recommended adding magnesium flakes to a bath and having a good old soak at least once/twice a week… more if time allows. Apart from a bath helping to relax me after a long day, magnesium absorbed through the skin has several health benefits, most interesting for me being increased insulin sensitivity.
Magnesium is the second most abundant element in our bodies and is used in regulating over 300 enzymes and reactions in the body. Unfortunately, as is more often than not the norm, modern diets and convenience foods have led to an imbalance of nutrients in the foods we eat. Consequently, most people are deficient in Magnesium and so are missing out on:
- Stress relief
- Muscle ache relief
- Improved circulation
- Better nutrient absorption
- Headache relief
- Speeding up wound healing
- Aiding respiratory illness recovery
- Improving skin hydration and any acne or eczema
You can buy Magnesium tablets but sometimes minerals are better absorbed by the skin. If we have problems with our gut then it can be hard to digest the food we eat and so difficult to extract the nutrients from it that our cells need.
Our skin is the body’s largest organ, something I’d forgotten from Mrs Walters’ biology class, and so has an amazing ability to absorb and filter toxins and deliver nutrients to the body. Hence why I’ve taken to having baths with magnesium flakes added in.
The last thing I have started doing is being strict with myself and sticking to a bed time routine. No more scrolling through Insta for an hour or searching Pinterest for hair colour inspiration!
Before I broke my hip my daily routine didn’t change that much and my body responded perfectly – fat loss, good blood sugar control, full of energy and a good night’s sleep.
Turning my life upside down with this injury also meant my daily routine went out the window, obviously! But that doesn’t mean I had to stop having a routine altogether – this was my mistake. Instead of throwing my routine out the window I should have just made the adjustments to create a new routine for the new lifestyle I’d landed myself in.
So, going forward with my mission to get better at sleeping
- To do list before bed
- Time to wind down from the day
- Prep for any adjustment to my blood sugars
- Magnesium baths once/twice a week before bed Routine – be strict and stick to it
I was reading an article by Susan Zafarlofti, PhD, professor of sleep disorders, who said that people with diabetes should be very careful about sleep because anything that throws off their routine can make them feel fatigued which in turn will lead to insulin deficiencies.
Proper sleep is as important as diet for diabetics!
Hope the above tips help you as much as they’ve helped me