To sleep, perchance to dream

I’ve never been a good sleeper. When I was a child, I used to drive my parents nuts as I sat up into the small hours, stressing about how little sleep I was getting. I still like a nice dark, quiet space, and take a while to drop off, but I’m much better than I used to be.

But the other night I found myself scared to go to sleep. It’s something I have experienced before on occasions, but this fear had a new intensity. When I write it down, it seems silly – but I’m sure most people can relate to the way in which our brains blow things out of proportion in the night.

Anyway, the context is that I have been trying really hard to get my blood sugars in line. Having ‘good control’ is the key to preventing long term complications of diabetes (the list of which is lengthy). For some reason, I find this immensely difficult to achieve. I think it’s a combination of strange conditions within my system (the inflammation from RA must have an impact), my tendency to try and micro-manage each moment rather than looking at the big picture, and sometimes, just wanting to eat like the rest of the world. Whatever the causes, my unpredictable blood sugars have been stressing me out for a good few months.

Anyway, the other night I went to bed on a relatively good blood sugar reading. As I started to drift off, my mind went through the things I had done over the last few hours. Had I eaten something that would still be being digested now? Had I overcompensated with insulin earlier? Would this afternoon’s walk have an effect on my blood sugar level in the night? My heart was pounding and I was sweating, both symptoms of a hypo (low blood sugar). But when I checked, it was fine. Was my machine wrong, or was I just really anxious?

I felt my chest tighten and was finding it difficult to breathe. At that point, I realised I was scared, and anxiety was beginning to grip me. Worst case scenarios flooded my head.

My first thought was to wake up my husband (who only has to think about pillows to drop off. Very annoying!) But then I realised this fear didn’t have to control me. I told myself the facts again: my blood sugar was fine. If it dropped low, it would wake me up, as it usually does. I forced my breathing to slow with deep breaths, and I prayed. And then I just fell asleep. When I woke up, I was truly amazed and thankful.

I don’t really know why I felt this moment was important to share, but maybe it’s that it made me realise that I am not out of control. I have felt overwhelmed over the last few weeks – like nothing I do makes any difference. But in that moment of fear, I realised that panic and stress achieve nothing.

Night-time revelations can sometimes be wacky (I come up with many revolutionary inventions at 2am), but occasionally, they give us insights that we can’t see in the busy fullness of the day.

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