T1D, Sleep + Anxiety


This content was made possible with support from Medtronic Diabetes, an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication.

Vicious cycle

It’s no secret to those of us living with diabetes that the condition affects not just our sleep patterns, but those of our families and/or caretakers as well. I often find myself struggling to get a good night’s rest, whether it’s from a long night of low blood sugars waking me up every few hours, constant high continuous glucose monitor (CGM) alarms going off or the endless struggle to simply feel well enough to sleep. There is an ever-present worry in the back of my mind when it comes time to go to sleep, and I am always striving to get my blood sugar at a safe level right before I go to bed. With all of these factors to keep in mind it can be exhausting at times.

I often find myself in fear of going to bed if my blood sugar is not where I would like it to be and wondering anxiously about the “what-ifs” during sleep. Sometimes, these very thoughts consume my mind and I will overcompensate…Maybe, by eating a snack I wouldn’t necessarily eat at night in order to prevent a low…or taking too large a dose of insulin to correct a high.

I’m afraid I could sleep through all my high alarms and wake up in the morning feeling sick (headache, nausea, fatigue, etc.) ruining my plans for the day.

I’m afraid I will wake up throughout the night because of the alarms, and not get the rest I need.

I’m afraid I could go so low that I might not wake up at all.

And worst of all, I tend to experience this type of anxiety when I have a big day ahead of me, and I need my sleep the most.

What works for me

I have come up with a few tools to combat my anxiety surrounding sleep, and find peace moving forward.

I am lucky to have an attentive diabetes healthcare team, but I know it’s incumbent on me to express the difficulties I’m having with the mental health toll diabetes can take on me. I express my frustrations, worries and anxieties. I often get incredible, personalized advice for tackling the situation.

But they are not always available, and not everyone is as lucky as me. Another way to calm my mind down before bed is through a meditation app. I’ll go to my phone for a quick guided meditation session, collect my thoughts, focus on my breathing and find that peace and mental stability again.

I have an extra security blanket, in that I am blessed to live in a home with family members who are all are aware of my diabetes. They know the sounds of my CGM alarms, my specific symptoms for lows and highs, how and when to use glucagon and everything in between. I worry less going to sleep surrounded by people who can advocate for me in an emergency and help me when needed.

And finally, I rely on routine. When I feel comfortable with my routine and control over my diabetes, I won’t stay up at night worrying about maintaining steady blood glucose levels (BGs) or my overall health. I know each night is different, and diabetes might throw me a curveball every so often, but I’m increasingly confident I can resolve whatever might come my way.

Read another piece about sleep, anxiety + how type 1 affects loved ones—A Parent’s Worry.

WRITTEN BY David Mina, POSTED 03/08/20, UPDATED 11/19/22

David has been living with type 1 diabetes since he was 11 years old. After feeling so alone with this disease for years, he decided to start up his own brand via Instagram, @type1livabetic, back in 2014. David not only shares his daily life with type 1, but he also spreads words of encouragement and provides creative content in hope of building a community to help others who may be feeling isolated. David is from sunny California where he is wrapping up his time in college to become a certified diabetes educator. In his free time, you’ll see David out taking photos, drinking coffee and spending time with his dog, Comet. And if all else fails, you can find him at Disneyland!