How to Safely Take a Break from Your Continuous Glucose Monitor
Wanting a break from your continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is normal. The longer you live with type 1 diabetes, the more likely you are to run into diabetes burnout. When feeling burnt out, you may feel like you want to be far removed from your devices too.
It’s okay to take a break from your CGM at the end of a wear-cycle (typically 10 to 14 days) and enjoy naked showers again—just make sure you have a backup plan to manage your blood sugars while taking a break from your alarms.
Create a CGM-free blood sugar management plan
While for some people living with diabetes, taking a break from a CGM is terrifying, for others, it offers release from the daily reminder that you live with a chronic illness. When managing diabetes, taking a break from something usually means taking on something else. Enjoy the break from your CGM without neglecting the need for continuous self-care.
If you plan to take a break from your CGM, ensure that your CGM-free blood sugar management plan is locked down. Here are some steps you should take:
- Make sure you have enough blood glucose meter supplies: As much as we’d like to skip the whole “when is the last time you changed your lancet?” joke, seriously—when is the last time you changed your lancet? (Or refilled your prescription?) If you’re taking a break from your CGM, ensure you have all your blood glucose meter (BGM) supplies available, which includes a blood glucose meter, test strips, lancets, facial tissues or alcohol swabs and a lancing device. Don’t forget to carry these supplies with you if you leave the house!
- Create a schedule to check your blood sugar levels: You may refer to your CGM reports to help you identify how long you need to check your blood sugar after a meal. For example, if you’ve noticed that it takes two hours after a meal for your mealtime insulin to take full effect, that may be the perfect time to recheck your blood sugar. You can lean on your smartwatch or phone to set reminders, or use some good old-fashioned calendar or whiteboard reminders to check in with yourself. Remember to check your blood sugar levels before going to sleep and exercising.
- Listen to your body: Being without CGM alarms can be freeing, but it can also feel like the wild, wild west. Listening to your body is vital when you don’t have your CGM to rely on. Be especially mindful of your low blood sugar symptoms.
Identify your low blood sugar symptoms
As much as alarm fatigue is real, so is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) fatigue. After years or decades of managing type 1 diabetes, it can be hard to identify your low blood sugar symptoms, especially if you’ve grown to rely on a CGM to tell you.
Here are some common low blood sugar symptoms people with diabetes experience:
- blurred vision
- cold sweats
- cool pale skin
- difficulty in concentrating
- excessive hunger
- fast heartbeat
- feeling anxious
- restless sleep
- seeming “drunk”
- slurred speech
- unusual tiredness or weakness
Of course, it’s also important to remember what high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) feel like for you. Symptoms may include excessive thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, dry mouth, recurring infections and slow-healing cuts or wounds.
Taking a break from a CGM isn’t always a choice
Of course, taking a break from a CGM isn’t always optional. Losing your job or insurance may force you to take an unwanted break. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some resources that can help:
- How to Get a Continuous Glucose Monitor Without Health Insurance
- Your Guide to CGM Access + Affordability
- This Program Lets You Try the Freestyle CGM for Free
- Health Insurance 101: Navigating Appeals, Denials and Prior Authorizations
No one living with diabetes should be without the resources, tools, and care they need to live a quality life. CGMs are a helpful technological advancement for people with diabetes that can make life much more manageable.
Editor’s note: Educational content for newly diagnosed people with diabetes is made possible with support from Abbott, makers of the Freestyle Libre 3 system, an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication. Editorial control rests solely with Beyond Type 1.