Sleep ’tis a gentle thing..

  • Oh Sleep..’tis a gentle thing, belov’d from pole to pole..

    Our occasional blogger, Dave Barnes, has shared his thoughts on the ‘night life’ experienced by most people living with type 1 diabetes: the lack of sleep, the various physical needs that must be attended to through the night, the impossibility of an uninterrupted night’s sleep, the embarrassment when sharing a space with others, and the nightly company of the cat.

    Sometimes all I want to do is sleep.

    Sleep hours are the only hours in the day when nothing is expected of me. Yet my sleep has an eternal enemy; and it’s not time, it’s diabetes.

    I can’t remember the last time I was able to surrender to tiredness, shut my eyes and wake up several to eight hours later. Sleeping like a baby? Nah..that’s not me..Na, that is not my lot.

Me, I have to pee. I have this feeling at first, it’s like a alcoholic in search of drink. My lips quiver and I lick ’em, it tastes sweet. I feel thirsty, and I then I need water. Next, sometimes not long after the former, I find myself needing to go to the loo. I cannot shut it off once the brain says it’s so, I have to go.

So here I am, often knackered, off to the loo to do my thing, and when I am there, half asleep, it comes out, keeps coming up, wakes me up as it still comes out. Then my brain says to get another drink of water.

But hey, I know this game, and I read the diabetic tarot cards, and suspect that ‘bad boy’ blood glucose is alive in me and keeping my soul awake. Which gets me to the next part of my nightly ritual.

I go to the kitchen and grab my blood glucose machine. I fidget around trying not to be noisy and wake anyone, including the cat who now wants a feed. I prick myself, draw blood, stick it, test it, wait for the reading and ‘Shebang’, I find the culprit double digits that are keeping me wake. I then fumble around some more, get some insulin into me, and send off a quick request to the Gods that it is the right amount, I will settle soon, and get some bloody sleep.

I then feed the cat, and return to bed as quietly as I can, which isn’t that quiet.

Often this will happen two or three times a night, particularly if I am up late, or for some reason, like maybe I miscalculated the last carb to go into my mouth when I went to bed in the first place. The cat loves me.

It gets even more complicated when you are with strangers. Or in a tent. Or even worse, with strangers in a tent. You need to get up and crawl over everyone and trip over everything to go do a pee. How about if you are with someone new, someone you are trying to build a relationship with? If you do a wee more than once a night, the next day that person, or those people, the ones in the tent, not your bed, look at you funny. That made me anxious in my dating years and still makes me anxious when sharing facilities with other folks. You know what I mean.


Sharing a tent tonight?


Then there is the reflection. What am I eating that is sending it up? Why won’t the insulin send it down enough? Why doesn’t the expensive pump never seem to give enough of it to address a high in the first place? I am thinking. Wait a minute, I am not suppose to be thinking at 3.36 in the morning, I am meant to be sleeping, God damn it!

After I have been through all that the first time, the bit of water I had to drink, you know, to get over the original high, wants to get out, and calls me to the loo again. Now I’m thinking, ‘I do want to sleep, I don’t want to wake my wife, my kids, the dog’. I feel like such a dill that after  spending so long living with this condition it still has me by the balls, so to speak. I am glad the cat still loves me.


The cat loves me..


That’s actually an easy night. If you are unwell, or stressed out at work, this may go on for a number of nights in a row, which screws up all the levels of everything in your brain and in the body. Soon you are feeling like a dead man walking.

Then there is the ‘technological’ sleep of the modern diabetic. We have bells and whistles now for everything. If you go high, your pump bell will ring, if you go low it will vibrate. It ‘beeps’ every four hours when it is time to test. The pump will try and get in your face, and often wraps around you like a boa constrictor as you try to get it out of the way and get some sleep! I have actually lost this battle a number of times and inadvertently ripped the canula straight out of me in my restlessness. Pumps don’t sleep you see. However they like to dress it up, it is a machine. I’m not.

Now I find I get anxious even preparing for sleep, knowing I have all of this to look forward to. I find I’m checking and double checking my blood sugar like I have OCD with my blood glucose meter. I’m not right in the head.


testing like a madman..


I heard this quote, it said, “There is no pillow as soft and comfortable as a clear conscience.” As a diabetic who is getting older, I need to ensure I address what happens in the night time as well as in the day. I need to remember that my old friend, diabetes, never sleeps; so I need to gently remind it that I do, and it needs to work with me.

I just wish someone else could tell my diabetes all this crap cause I just wanna get some sleep! Hold on, “Buzz, buzz, buzz.” What does that pump want to tell me now? Oh no, it’s not my bgl, not my pump reminder, it’s the normal alarm, it’s time for work. Struth.

Dave Barnes