I like to think that over the last 7 years I have adapted pretty well to life with diabetes. I count carbohydrates without even realising I’m doing it. Checking my blood sugars is second nature, and using large needles to insert my diabetes tech devices doesn’t make me flinch anymore. There is one thing that I have never gotten use to though, and I don’t think I ever will.

The middle of the night hypo.

Last night I was jolted awake by my Miao Miao just after midnight. It was alerting that my blood sugars were low. I was sweating and my heart was pounding but thankfully, despite being sleepy, I was still able to think clearly. I treated with 10g of fast acting carbs (Haribo – almost always Haribo for me!) before double checking it on my meter, getting a reading of 3.0 mmol/l. It took 30g of carbs in total, and around 15 minutes for blood sugars to be around 6.0 and I could comfortably go back to sleep.

A blood glucose graph from a Freestyle Libre showing an overnight hypo at just after midnight
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My First Overnight Hypo

I was really lucky when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I have an extended honeymoon period that lasted for around 2 and a half years. This period meant that I was taking minimal amounts of insulin, and that meant any errors in dosing were minimal. I didn’t have any overnight hypos, and couldn’t comprehend it when other people with diabetes would speak about how much worse they can be than day time ones.

Things changed when I became pregnant with my first child. During the 3rd trimester my insulin needs rose dramatically, and teaming that with trying to maintain steady blood sugars day and night for the health of my baby meant that I woke one night hypo.

There is no way to describe the feeling, but I immediately knew what was wrong. At the time I wasn’t using a Libre as they weren’t available on the NHS yet and I had recently been made redundant, so it was a luxury I had dropped. I didn’t need it to know I was low though, I treated with the carbs I always keep in my bedside drawer and around 20 minutes later could go back to sleep (or at least try to – my carpal tunnel in pregnancy was awful!)

A woman lying on a bed with white sheets on it. She is wearing black loungewear and looking at her mobile phone
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Why Are Night Time Hypos So Bad?

Every type 1 diabetic has experienced hypoglycaemia, it is just par for the course when you inject insulin. During the day the can be horrible, debilitating even for some, but in general it can be dealt with swiftly and forgotten about relatively quickly. Thats isn’t to say they aren’t dangerous during the day, but the effects do seem to be less.

This is largely due to the fact that when you are awake the majority of people can feel a hypo before it gets too low. Not everyone, and not all the time, but the majority. Overnight, when you are asleep, you are not on the same red alert for hypo symptoms. This means you don’t tend to wake until your blood sugars are lower.

In simple terms, this means that when I’m awake I feel my hypoglycaemia symptoms much earlier than I do when I’m asleep. It means I can seek treatment earlier and ultimately the after effects are lesser.

fizzy gummy bears
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Treating a hypo overnight almost always ends up in a rebound high for me. In my sleepy state I don’t have the willpower to fight the urge to eat everything, even though I know logically I have had enough and just have to give it time to kick in. I want it over quickly so I can get back to sleep.

Thankfully hypos in the middle of the night are fairly rare for me – but that doesn’t make them any easier when they happen. Waking up the morning after one can be tough, but we’ve no choice but to just get up and get on with it!

What Next?

Why not join our Facebook Group which is hub for women with all different types of diabetes. It is a safe place to ask questions, share knowledge and be open about how you are coping.

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