It happens twice a year, like clockwork: In spring, we jump forward and lose an hour. In the fall, we gain that precious hour back. You might be prepared for the calendar mix-ups that daylight saving time (DST) changes bring. But what you might not know is that time changes can have quite an impact on your diabetes, too. Here’s what to watch out for, plus tips to prepare.
Blood sugar bounce-arounds
When the time changes, your routines change, too. And even small shifts can have a big impact on your blood sugar levels, especially in the days just after. For example, you might celebrate longer spring days with more indulgent meals. Those rich foods and extra treats can send your blood sugar soaring. Or when you wake up in the pitch dark, you may stay snuggled in bed instead of heading out on your daily walk. While skipping out on exercise one day isn’t the end of the world, a pattern of missed workouts can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels.
The clocks on some diabetes devices, like your insulin pump and your CGM (continuous glucose monitor), don’t automatically adjust for DST changes. And when your pump or CGM is set to the wrong time, you’re at an increased risk for both higher and lower blood sugar.
In fact, recent research by Michigan State University shows that dosing errors can happen when you forget to change the times yourself.
When the time shift makes the days longer, your sleep can get disrupted. That’s because the extra light keeps your body from producing the melatonin you need to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is important for pretty much every part of your life — mood, digestion, concentration, stress response. But it’s especially important for people with diabetes: Lost or “junk” sleep can make your blood sugar levels rise.
Tips for managing your diabetes for DST
Whether you’re gaining an hour or losing it, here’s how to make adjustments to your treatment plan and keep your blood sugar levels nice and steady:
Increase your blood sugar checks.
Checking more often, especially in the first week after the time change, helps you stay on track while your body adjusts to the environmental changes, as well as to your own schedule (meals, exercise) shifts. And more frequent checks will help you catch any problems early.
Check the time on your devices.
Make sure all your diabetes management devices are set to the correct time once a time change happens. To make sure you don’t forget, put alerts in your calendar for both the spring and fall time change dates. An internet search will pull up this year’s dates in a snap.
Regular exercise helps keep your blood sugar levels balanced. The longer days of spring give you more time to get out and get moving. Use that extra hour you get back in fall to find a new indoor workout you can do no matter the weather.
Stick to your routines.
There’s a lot of power in habits, so keeping to your regular exercise and eating schedules makes it easier to manage your diabetes no matter what’s happening with the clock.
Keep bedtime consistent.
Though you may be tempted to squeeze every minute of extra sunlight when DST comes, try to go to bed at about the same time as before the change. This helps regulate your sleep cycle and keeps your blood sugar steady. (Bonus tip: It also helps to keep your bedtime consistent whether it’s weekday or weekend).
Don’t go changin’
No matter what snafus a time change throws at you, our best advice remains the same. Make healthy food choices. Move your body every day. Keep your stress levels low. And keep up with your blood sugar checking habit.