Diabetes and body clocks – The Cornflake Traveller
The link between the body clock and Type 2 diabetes is well publicised and studies have shown a link between mutated melatonin genes and an increased risk of developing Type 2, but there doesn’t seem to be a link for Type 1.
Over the years I have taken some big leaps around the world; New York to Bangkok with an 11 hour time difference and London to L.A with its 8 hour difference, a trip I have flown over 30 times. From these journeys I remember there being changes to my diabetes (basically having more hypos), but at the time I just put it down to the fact that I was travelling, changing flights and eating rubbish airline food.
A few years back I was saving up to cycle from Greece to Croatia and ended up working for six weeks doing the night shift in a supermarket which has gone downhill a lot recently and rhymes which fresco. I wasn’t expecting there to be any effect on my blood sugar levels whatsoever but the first week was a real surprise.
My shift ran from 10pm until 7am so the first night I had dinner about 9:30pm then went to work. My hypos seem to vary in their severity quite a lot, sometimes I feel it starting, put some sugar in my tea and it’s all over within five minutes, but what happened to me on my first night was the other end of the spectrum.
Around 11pm I was holding onto the walls to keep myself upright and with an altered state of mind trying to find the staff canteen, plus being my first night I didn’t want to give a bad impression so I had to hide that anything was wrong. In the end I needed to eat about three plastic cups full of sugar (it was free and I was serious about saving money) to bring myself round and I needed to keep eating sweet things for the rest of the night to keep myself afloat. At the time I thought the hypo had been caused by the physical work as I was in the fruit and veg section and shifting big heavy boxes around.
Next night I ate a big plate of pasta and didn’t inject anything before starting my shift, but still had a really serious hypo a few hours later and again had to eat cups full of sugar. After that I still had hypos but they became less severe as my body adjusted to sleeping at different times of the day, plus I learnt how to cope and went to work better prepared.
I’m not sure if this experience is unique to me or whether I should be warning other diabetics about this, but the fact that there is a link between Type 2 and the body clock I feel it is worth a mention. It was certainly a serious enough experience for me to never want to work the night shift again and this sentiment was strengthened when I found out that volunteers who have had their sleep disrupted repeatedly temporarily develop symptoms of diabetes after three days. Also blood sugar control is just one of the many processes regulated by the body’s biological clock, for example night shift workers are believed to be at a higher risk of developing heart disease. So to my fellow Type 1 diabetics out there, be warned, we are like Gizmo and all the Mogwai, make sure you get to sleep before midnight.