Managing diabetes — whether you have type 1 or type 2 — is a full-time job. Your condition doesn’t clock out at 5 p.m. when you’re ready to take a break. You have to maintain your blood sugar checks, medication, exercise, and eating habits all day to keep your disease under control.
In fact, you should be mindful of your diabetes all the way until bedtime. Before you set the alarm and settle in under the covers each night, here are a few bedtime to-do’s that will help you get more control over your diabetes and sleep more soundly.
Check your blood sugar level
Routine blood sugar checks are an important part of managing your diabetes. Checking your blood sugar at bedtime will help you and your doctor know whether your medicine and other treatments are adequately controlling your blood sugar levels overnight. Your blood sugar goal at bedtime should be in the range of 90 to 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Eat a bedtime snack
When you live with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you might have experienced something that experts have named the “dawn phenomenon” or the “dawn effect.” Early in the morning — often between the hours of 2 a.m. and 8 a.m.—your blood sugar might spike. This surge in blood sugar could be the result of factors such as: the release of hormones early in the morning that increase insulin resistance, insufficient insulin or medication dosing the night before, carbohydrate snacking at bedtime, or your liver releasing a burst of glucose overnight.
To combat the dawn phenomenon, eat a high-fiber, low-fat snack before bed. Whole-wheat crackers with cheese or an apple with peanut butter are two good choices. These foods will keep your blood sugar steady and prevent your liver from releasing too much glucose. Just keep the portion size small, so you don’t exceed your recommended calorie or carbohydrate count for the day. Eating too much before bed can contribute to weight gain, which is counterproductive when you have diabetes.
Foods can affect different people’s blood sugar in different ways. Monitor your blood sugar in the morning to help determine how much and what type of a snack may be best for you.
Stay away from stimulants
Avoid caffeine — coffee, chocolate, and soda — within a few hours of bedtime. These caffeinated foods and drinks stimulate your brain and can keep you awake.
Also, limit alcohol intake, especially if you find it to be disrupting your sleep and impacting your blood sugar levels.
Take a walk
Exercise helps insulin work more efficiently. Taking a walk just after dinner or before bed can help keep your blood sugar under control through the following morning. According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising too close to bed may impact how fast you fall asleep. However, this isn’t the case for everyone, as some people sleep fine after a workout before bed. Get to know your body and find what works best for you.
Prepare your bedroom for sleep
To optimize your ability to fall asleep and stay that way throughout the night, your room needs to be quiet, cool, dark, and comfortable.
Set the thermostat between 60˚F (15.6˚C) and 67˚F (19.4˚C) — the optimal temperature for sleep.
Dim the lights. Close the shades and curtains so the rising sun won’t wake you up in the morning. (If the light bothers you, consider installing room darkening or blackout curtains.)
Move your cellphone to another room or put it in a drawer so incoming texts and calls don’t wake you up. If you’re sensitive to noise, get a fan or white noise machine, or use earplugs to block out any unwanted sounds.
All of these things can prep the sleep hormones to kick in and help you fall asleep.
Get into a bedtime routine
Between 40 and 50 percent of people with diabetes have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Nerve pain, frequent thirst, the need to urinate, and hunger can all keep you awake. You can work with your doctor to control these issues, but one way to maximize your sleep hours is to get into a bedtime routine.
Just before bed, do something to relax your body and quiet your mind to prepare it for sleep. Take a warm bath, do some gentle yoga, or read a book. Keep the lights low. Turn off all computers, tablets, and other electronic devices because they emit a type of blue light that can stimulate your brain.
If you can’t fall asleep right away, leave the room and read or do another quiet activity for 15 minutes, then climb back into bed and try again.