A recent survey has highlighted the risk of night-time hypoglycaemic episodes among people with diabetes.

The results of a Novo Nordisk survey found that one third (32%) of people with diabetes failed to report night-time hypoglycaemia (or hypos) to their doctor or nurse.

Hypoglycaemic episodes, or hypos, occur when blood sugar levels falls to a low level, and symptoms can include a pounding heart, trembling, hunger, difficulty concentrating and blurred vision. Symptoms of night-time hypos include waking up with a morning headache, night sweats and extreme tiredness. Night-time hypos can be of particular concern as they can be unpredictable and hard to detect.

A selection of sugar cubes.

Good control of blood sugar levels can help prevent hypoglycaemic episodes

The researchers found that of those who did report hypos, one-third felt more confident about managing their night-time hypos (34%).

Night-time hypoglycaemia can be a regular burden for people with diabetes with approximately two-thirds (66%) of people having experienced a night-time hypo in the month prior to the survey. Night-time hypos have a significant impact on the lives of people living with diabetes and can lead to having to take time off work (21%), a loss of productivity at work (12%) and a reduced desire to socialise (13%) and exercise (12%). Almost half of people (47%) reported that their sleep had been affected by night-time hypos, and one quarter (25%) of people said they were scared of being alone when experiencing a night-time hypo.

Night-time hypos have also been linked to causing physical harm with one in seven people (14%) reporting having sustained an injury while experiencing a night-time hypo. The survey also found that one-third of people cope by making changes to their treatment (37%) without consulting their doctor or nurse.

Professor Anthony Barnett, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Birmingham and Consultant Physician Heart of England NHS Foundation, Birmingham, said: “It is concerning that some people with diabetes are not reporting night-time hypos to their doctor or nurse, given the impact on their long-term health and lifestyle. People with diabetes who are experiencing either day or night-time hypos are encouraged to speak to their doctor or nurse to ensure that they are being appropriately managed.”

The findings of the study were released to promote the TALK Hypos campaign, with an acronym to encourage people with diabetes to discuss day and night-time hypoglycaemia with their doctor or nurse:

  • Think: Do you know what a hypo is? Do you suffer from hypos?
  • Ask: your doctor or nurse about hypos and discuss them as part of your consultation
  • Learn: what can be done to better manage your hypos, including lifestyle and treatment options
  • Keep: track of your hypos for discussion with your doctor or nurse  
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