Hypoglycemia and sleep: What to know about nightly blood sugar dips

blood sugar

THE BOTTOM LINE:

  • Hypoglycemia can wreak havoc on your sleep
  • You may experience significant disruptions even if you don’t wake up
  • You can take easy steps to stabilize your blood sugar before sleep
 

It is quite common for people with diabetes to experience nighttime dips in blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. Even if you are taking medication for your diabetes, it can have a pretty big impact on how well you sleep!

How does hypoglycemia impact sleep?

  • Mixed signals: When your blood sugar levels drop during sleep, it leads to a release of hormones that regulate glucose levels. These compounds lead to a stimulating effect on your brain which sends signals saying “hey I want some food now.”

    As a result, blood sugar dips in the night leads to signalling that the brain interprets as “wake up and eat.” Not surprisingly, this signalling disrupts sleep quality and quantity.

  • Water regulation: When your body has extra glucose circulating, it draws water from other tissues. This can lead you to feel thirsty. As a real kicker, high blood sugar also makes you pee more. Thirst and frequent bathroom breaks aren’t exactly great for sleep!

  • Other side-effects: Hypoglycemia also leads to headaches, dizziness, shaking, and sweating which can all be rather disruptive to your slumber.

HOW TO MANAGE SLEEP WITH HYPOGLYCEMIA

In addition to good sleep hygiene, people with diabetes need to make an extra effort to manage their blood sugar levels before bed in order to optimize their sleep. In addition to properly managing diabetes with lifestyle changes and proper medication, you can help prevent hypoglycemia during the night with these easy steps:

1. PRE-BEDTIME BLOOD SUGAR CHECKS

Checking your levels before bed can help you avoid a bad night. If levels are low, grab a healthy snack. If you’re using a pump, you may need to consider temporarily reducing your insulin dosage. The main thing is to achieve a stable level before bed.

2. KNOW THE SIGNS OF HYPOGLYCAEMIA

The classic signs of hypoglycemia are shakiness, confusion, headache, and sweating. However, some people don’t feel the symptoms because the body can get sensitized to it. Attacks may not wake you up during the night but you’ll feel the impact in the morning. 

If you regularly wake up feeling terrible, talk to your doctor about how to recognize the signs of nocturnal hypoglycemia.

3. TIME YOUR EXERCISE

Strenuous exercise too close to bedtime can lead to blood sugar drops during the night. Try to avoid strenuous exercises like cardio, interval training, or heavy weightlifting within 2 hours of bedtime. If you do exercise close to snooze time, be diligent about checking your levels and if they are low – make yourself a big healthy snack! 

Learn how to exercise to improve your sleep!

4. EAT A GOOD DINNER

Skipping dinner can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to hypoglycemia. Instead, grab a healthy and well-balanced meal that will keep your levels stable.

5. SKIP THE NIGHTCAP

Avoid drinking within 3 hours of bedtime as it can be disruptive to your sleep and lead to nocturnal hypoglycemia. If you do have beverages in the evening, pair them with food, stay hydrated, and know your limits. Learn more about the benefits of skipping your nightcap.

6. HAVE A PLAN READY

Life happens and sometimes you need to be prepared! Keep juice or your snack of choice on your nightstand to help you out if your blood sugar takes a plunge through the night.

Bottom Line: Hypoglycemia can wreak havoc on your sleep. You may experience significant disruptions even if you don't wake up. Luckily, you can take easy steps to stabilize your blood sugar before sleep.

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