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Exorcising the Specter of Nighttime Hypoglycemia

by Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE

Research has shown that severe hypoglycemia — involving loss of consciousness or the inability to wake up, seizure, coma, or death — takes some time to develop. Dropping suddenly to a very low blood glucose does not usually lead to these types of severe states. However, even a mild low that goes untreated for several hours or more can cause the brain to malfunction significantly and lead to a severe low. So the key to preventing severe lows (during the day or night) is early detection and rapid treatment.

Frequent blood glucose monitoring and use of a continuous glucose monitor can be very helpful in detecting and treating mild hypoglycemia early. However, you and your partner should be aware of even the subtlest signs of hypoglycemia while you are sleeping. Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, so take the time to think about it and talk it over with your partner. Do you have unusual dreams? An urge to urinate? Do you twitch or talk in your sleep? Do you start to perspire? Become more restless than usual?

Make a commitment to check your blood glucose and act on the reading (using the treatment strategies listed above) as soon as you or your partner notices symptoms. And once the nighttime hypoglycemia specter has been brought under control, think about what might have brought him into your bedroom in the first place. With careful thought and the help of your health-care team, you should be able to figure out a way to exorcise him for good.

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