Diabetes Bedtime Routine for a Soothing Night & Energized Day
I’m a big fan of habits. A good set of habits makes your life easier, healthier and safer. The way you end your day sets the tone for your sleep and for the following day. If you have diabetes, your nighttime habits – or your bedtime routine – are critically important.
Your Diabetes Bedtime Routine
There is a big payoff for your efforts in building better, healthier habits. Not only do they help you achieve better health, but habits free your mind up for other things. Just imagine how hectic your life would be without certain habits in place – turning off the stove after scrambling eggs, tying your running shoes before hitting the pavement, planning time to grocery shop on the weekends, taking your medications with breakfast. This list goes on and on.
Here are 11 things that might belong on your evening to-do list. Work with your diabetes educator to personalize the diabetes bedtime routine that’s right for you.
And don’t forget to check out 5 Steps to Building Better Habits.
1. Pack tomorrow’s lunch. Even if you plan to eat at home tomorrow afternoon, use the time after dinner to organize your lunch. I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s helped me rein in extra calories, added sugars, unhealthful fats and more. By the time those mid-day hunger pangs hit me, all the work has been done. It’s much easier to make good decisions in advance than on the fly. If it helps, organize breakfast and snacks too.
- Pro tip: Aim for at least 3 food groups and include a mix of protein, fats, fiber and other carbohydrates. Keep some ready-to-eat foods on hand: low-fat cheese, hard-boiled eggs, packaged and seasoned tuna, frozen brown rice or other whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Here’s how to make a meal out of salad greens and leftovers.
2. Brush your teeth. Floss too. Signal the end of eating by brushing your teeth shortly after dinner. This is another trick that works for me. But brushing and flossing are must-dos for other reasons. People with diabetes have a higher risk of gum disease and mouth problems. Make good mouth care part of your diabetes bedtime routine.
3. Get some movement. Take a walk after eating. Play with your dogs or your kids. Vacuum the house. Dance to some favorite music. You have a lot of options to get some movement after dinner (a nutritious dinner, of course). As little as a 20-minute walk can improve your after-meal blood sugar levels.
- Pro tip: Even if you can’t find 20 minutes, take advantage of whatever time you do have – even just 3 minutes! All activity counts!
Here’s lots more about exercise and diabetes.
4. Organize tomorrow’s supplies. If you self-monitor your blood sugar or take medications, gather them up to keep you on track tomorrow. Ideally, you have a diabetes supply bag. Planning to exercise soon after getting up? Lay those clothes out as a reminder and to streamline your busy morning.
5. Snack only if necessary. Gone are the days of prescribing diabetes bedtime snacks to everyone. For many people, they aren’t necessary, and for some people with diabetes, snacking before bed does little more than pile on the pounds and jack up blood sugar levels. If you need a snack to get adequate nutrition or to prevent nighttime blood sugar lows, ask your dietitian or diabetes educator for specific suggestions and amounts.
- Pro tip: If you need a snack before bed, pick something light enough so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep, but go for nutrition. Create a list of 5 or so snack choices, so you aren’t without healthful options or tempted to eat something you’ll later regret. A few ideas: whole-grain cereal with milk, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, low-sugar yogurt, fresh fruit, peanut butter sandwich.
Here’s what science says about snacking.
6. Prepare your nighttime hypoglycemia care kit.Not everyone with diabetes gets low blood sugar. You are at risk for hypoglycemia if you take insulin or any medication that causes your pancreas to produce extra insulin. Keep hypoglycemia treatment near your bed along with eyeglasses, a phone, a light and your blood sugar monitoring supplies. Having a bell or another way to call for help at your bedside is also a good idea. Make sure others in your house know how to help you.
- Pro tip: The first step is to try to prevent hypoglycemia by working with your diabetes care providers to tweak your medications, blood sugar monitoring schedule, diet and exercise routine. If you fear nighttime low blood sugar, talk to your healthcare provider about wearing a continuous glucose monitor, so you can see exactly what happens to your blood sugar levels all through the day and night. Ask if you should have a glucagon emergency kit at home. Learn more about hypoglycemia and the proper treatment.
7. Set a goal for tomorrow. Acknowledging what you did well today and setting a goal for tomorrow is a great way to end the day. You might tell yourself that you did a good job navigating the office party food today and that tomorrow you’ll be sure to eat adequate fruits and vegetables. Or you might praise yourself for keeping your patience with unruly kids and promise to take a few extra minutes for yourself tomorrow. Get into the habit of noticing the good parts of your day – all of them – and planning for a good tomorrow. It’s such a lovely and positive way to end the day.
8. Check your blood sugar. This is part of that hypoglycemia prevention, if you’re at risk for low blood sugar. You’ll want to catch problems before they hit you. It can also help you troubleshoot if you wake up with high blood sugar levels in the morning. Not everyone with diabetes needs to monitor their blood sugar levels at home. Ask your healthcare provider if it’s a smart choice for you. Here’s more on when to check your blood sugar and why I recommend doing it in pairs.
9. Take your medications. If you’re the type to forget, put them where you’ll see them. On top of your pillow? Near your toothbrush? Next to your favorite book? Or simply set the alarm on your phone as a reminder.
10. Inspect your feet. Having diabetes may mean that you have more risk for getting infections. And, if you’ve had diabetes for a long time, you may have lost some feeling in your feet (or elsewhere) because of nerve damage. That’s why you could have sores, cuts or blisters without even knowing it. In fact, one recent patient had a broken foot and didn’t even know it! Take the time to inspect your feet, note any problems and changes in color, sensation, and temperature. See a healthcare provider if you notice any problems or changes.
- Pro tip: If you have trouble seeing the bottoms of your feet, use a hand mirror. And make sure you have good light. Also, be sure to ask your healthcare provider or diabetes educator how to do a proper foot inspection.
11. Wind down for bed. Sleep is like the third leg of a stool. The others are diet and exercise. To feel our best, we need good habits with all three. Too little sleep worsens insulin sensitivity and is linked to poor blood sugar control, increased risk for heart disease, greater chance of weight gain and a host of other problems – including being cranky (I know from experience)! Experiment with a nighttime ritual that allows you to relax before snuggling under the covers. Turn down the lights and turn off the electronics. Read, chat, sip decaf tea, listen to music, meditate. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you enjoy it and it sets the stage for settling into bed.
Find out the 5 ways skimping on sleep hurts your blood sugar.
So, how are you doing with this checklist for a diabetes bedtime routine? Which of these 11 steps do you struggle with the most?
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.
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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.