Living with diabetes blog

Tips for managing diabetes with a hectic lifestyle

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. August 6, 2010

A couple of months ago my son who is a grad student finished up a busy week writing papers, moved out of his apartment, and drove 12 hours to our house all within the space of 48 hours. He has type 1 diabetes and generally has been managing it well, but life can get hectic.

He came home and went straight to bed. We were away on a trip so he was home alone. He says that about an hour later, he woke up with our cat sitting on his chest snarling at him. Hobbes is a mild mannered cat and in all of his 16 years hasn't snarled at anybody, but that day he was persistent and continued to snarl and even bite (not breaking the skin) until my son woke up enough to realize that his blood sugar was low.

When he checked it was 40 mg/dl (2.2 mmol/l)! Later, when asked, my son said that because he was so tired he slept so hard and didn't realize his blood sugar was getting low.

Erratic work/school schedules and eating or exercising irregularly can lead to erratic blood sugars. Maybe you've switched to third shift at work, or started a new job, or added exercise to an already busy schedule. A variable lifestyle can challenge anyone's self-management skills.

A more stable lifestyle will improve blood sugar control. Once you've established a baseline of more consistent blood sugars, you can gradually introduce some variability in your lifestyle. A flexible lifestyle requires that you test more often, record your blood sugars, and make the appropriate insulin dose adjustments.

Some general tips:

  • Keep good records and routinely review them.
  • Try to keep regular meal times — when possible, eat the same number of carbohydrates at the same time of day.
  • Get regular exercise at the same time of day — even for a few minutes.
  • If you work an overnight shift, or rotating shifts, seek help from your diabetes care team, especially if you're on insulin.
  • Get plenty of sleep so that what happened to my son doesn't happen to you. His story could have ended up differently.
  • Monitor your blood sugar before you drive and every 2 hours thereafter. If your blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dl (5.5 mmol/l) have a snack before driving.

Please share your ideas and tips.


Aug. 06, 2010