It’s truly amazing what our bodies can get used to. And for once, I’m not talking about diabetes…well not yet at least.
For the past 6 weeks I’ve been struggling with insomnia. I know that in the scheme of life, there are much, much worse things to have to deal with- tragedies, deaths, fatal illnesses, etc. I’m grateful that it’s nothing of the sort, but putting aside these more horrific life events, insomnia is probably next on my list of things I hoped I would never have to deal with.
You see I love my sleep. And for the past 26 years, I’ve been an superb sleeper. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep has always been incredibly important to me. I often prioritize my sleep over fun. It was a running joke among my roommates back in undergrad that when I couldn’t remember a particular crazy story that they were recounting they would say, “Oh, you were probably sleeping.” And it was true. My sleep was and still is that important to me.
And when I didn’t get my 8 hours, I suffered. I would feel foggy, dizzy, sometimes even shaky. I would get headaches and just overall feel slow and out of it. And I would feel this way with 7 hours of sleep. I know it’s crazy since that’s more sleep than most people get normally. But I was just so used to getting high quality sleep that anything less was noticeable.
Six weeks ago, I had a string of a couple bad nights. I would wake up at 5 am and not be able to fall back asleep. I would become anxious that I wasn’t sleeping and worrying about how miserable I’d be the next day and my body would start to feel electric. Pretty soon I got caught in a vicious cycle where even thinking about sleeping made me anxious. My normal oasis of a bed became associated with restless sleep. Now it would sometimes take me hours to fall asleep, or I’d wake up at 3 and not be able to fall back asleep. My 8 hours of sleep became 4 hours of sleep, to sometimes no sleep at all.
I wish I could tell you that I’m better now, that things are back to normal, but they’re not. After talking with a sleep disorder expert who happens to be in my family and taking online sleep programs, I have a plan and have been making progress, but I still have nights that I just can’t sleep.
While my diabetes isn’t directly related to these sleep problems, it hasn’t been making it any easier. It’s truly awful to have finally calmed down enough to start to doze off only to be jarred awake by the buzzing of my CGM or by the symptoms of a low. And while I know this isn’t a good solution, I’ve been letting my blood sugars run on the higher side at night just to avoid an extra middle of the night wake up. However, this plan has backfired when I wake up having to go to the bathroom from the high blood sugars instead.
This insomnia experience, although probably one of the more exhausting things I’ve had to deal with (haha, get it?), has also reminded me a lot of when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I remember this feeling of being so overwhelmed, of wondering how I’d get through each day. I remember being constantly anxious of the unknown and worrying if I would be able to handle the challenges of the new diagnosis. But I did it, I got through each day. And I’m doing it now. As the weeks have gone by, I know that I can get through my work day on minimal sleep. It’s not ideal, but my body can handle it. I can handle it.
I know my insomnia, unlike my diabetes, is temporary (although hopefully a cure changes that too). But my diabetes has shown me that I can handle life’s challenges. That a bad day of blood sugars doesn’t mean that tomorrow will be bad too. A bad night of sleep doesn’t mean that I won’t be functional tomorrow. Our bodies are made to be resilient. We must choose if our minds will follow the example.