Regular sleep habits are critical for children with diabetes

Research suggests there is an association between the amount of sleep children with diabetes get and how well their mind and body functions, including tight blood glucose management.

Research shows that managing the challenges of childhood diabetes warrants a closer look at a child’s nightly sleep patterns. Poor sleep habits, undetected sleep problems or more serious sleep disorders all affect the length and quality of deep sleep that a child needs.  

In families where a child has diabetes, a regular bedtime routine and encouraging that a child sleeps the recommended number of hours each night helps to provide a healthy framework for quality sleep, and quality sleep helps to support positive diabetes management. Unfortunately, the opposite can occur when a child is sleep deprived which disrupts and diminishes the body’s ability to rest and regenerate, and this can negatively affect how a child feels and performs.

If you talk to most parents, bedtime routines vary from smooth and strictly enforced, to chaotic, unregulated and stressful. Parents play a key role in establishing a consistent bedtime routine for their child. A consistent bedtime routine for children, regardless of age, involve thoughtful strategies to help kids calm down and prepare for bed, and will assist them falling asleep. It can be hard for children to transition too quickly so do not rush the bedtime routine and try to keep the length of time about the same each night.  

Routines are all about effective planning. School-age children ages six to 13 need nine to 11 hours of sleep, and teens ages 14 to 17 need nine to 10 hours of sleep per night. Parents should carefully consider timeframes so children get the maximum minutes each night based on the time they need to wake up the next morning.

As parents educate themselves about the importance of their diabetic child’s sleep patterns, it may also help them to occasionally reexamine their child’s bedtime routines and sleep habits, especially if they see their child being excessively tired, moody or having unexplained glucose spikes. Adding more minutes could be a healthful solution. Monitoring diabetes during the day requires diligence and compassion. Helping your child to navigate bedtime calmly and to get the rest they need requires the same diligence and compassion.

 A child’s daytime activities make a difference in how well a child sleeps at night, especially when a child has diabetes. Stressful days can make it more difficult to unwind and fall asleep. Anxiety about poor glucose readings, navigating diabetic childhood burnout and adjusting to new medications and dosages, can all affect sleep patterns. If your child experiences any of these concerns or insomnia or other diabetic symptoms that can make it harder to fall sleep be sure to speak with your health care provider or diabetes educator. Sleep is vital to your child’s health so be resilient in your daily efforts to provide adequate time to sleep. As a parent, don’t underestimate the importance of sleep for yourself. Everyone benefits from the rest and rejuvenation that only sleep provides.

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