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Diabetes Never Sleeps

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Sleep. It might be the most important thing that humans need to survive. Everyone knows what it's like to have a bad night of sleep or have experienced sleep deprivation of having a newborn. There may be nothing quite like those first six weeks of bringing a baby home for the first time. Most parents will tell you it's the best and most exhausting time of their lives. Being the caregiver of a Type 1 diabetic rivals those first six weeks of having a newborn in many ways such as the frequent wake ups and necessity of eating in the wee hours of the morning. You see, Type 1 diabetes literally never sleeps and therefore... never do you.


As I write this, I am sitting here waiting for my daughter's blood sugar to rise and I am incredibly tired. But this is the stamina it takes to raise a healthy Type 1. Currently, her blood sugar is in the 'low' range meaning that I have had to give her fruit snacks while she is sleeping in an effort to make it rise. I cannot comfortably go to sleep until I see that the number has begun to come up because if she dips too low during her slumber she could slip into a coma and possibly die. I will then set my alarm for an hour or so in the future to make sure that I did not 'spike' her blood sugar because sitting too 'high' all night is also troublesome for her long term health. It's a delicate dance that requires a great deal of effort and precision.  


Thanks to modern technology (Dexcom), I am able to see her blood sugar in realtime on my IPhone! Cool, I know but it’s not perfect. Just because I can monitor it without the traditional finger pokes doesn’t make it any less high maintenance to make sure that she receives the proper care. What it does do is help reduce the anxiety of nighttime because hypothetically loud alarms sound when highs or lows are detected. I use the phrase “hypothetically” because it’s still technology and it can lose data or fail. There are also nights user error is very high since I sleep right through the alarms. But it is easily the best advancement in diabetic care.


Before the Dexcom my husband and I would just continuously check her little fingers and toes in order to determine her blood sugar trend. In an effort for us to get some sort of rest we would take turns at getting up at night. In the early years (pre-Dexcom) we created a system that allowed us to communicate at night via whiteboard. Whoever was up with her would then write the blood glucose number and what was administered and time. Just in case you're wondering, yes it's challenging to have proper cognitive function at 3am!  


We never slept more than three hours at a time. In fact, when I had our second child I slept more when she was a newborn than I had in the past year because my husband took on all the night diabetic care so I could nurse the baby. I never imagine having a nursing infant would be so restful.


I am not attempting to complain but I want to shed some light on the realities of living with Type 1. There will come a day when she will be able to wake herself up (fingers crossed) and make the corrections necessary but until that day we are responsible for making those adjustments. And the likely hood that I will just be able to sleep a solid eight hours without glancing at my phone or checking on her just because she will be capable, is slim to none.


If you ask any Type 1 moms to show you the alarm schedule on their phone you would probably think it was a joke. My phone literally has alarms programmed every 15 mins starting at midnight. Now I don’t set them all but using many factors I set the ones needed for the night. And no... In the last 8 years I have never gone to bed without setting an alarm. My husband and I used to switch nights depending on when he worked (he works 24 hour shifts). Since I now take care of the baby (our third child) at night, I have it easy and get to sleep a little more since I only have to wake up with her. 


Next time you encounter a fellow Type1 parent or someone who may be living with Type 1 do me a favor, don't tell them how tired you are. Trust me, they have probably not had a proper night of sleep in quite some time. Again, I am in no way trying to complain but just providing a glimpse into our lives.


The number just hit 77 trending up. That means I can catch a couple z's before that alarm goes off... or the baby wakes up.


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