High school son won't wake up to alarms: help!


last night Dex: 64. Fingerstick: 118. It’s those situations that make you less likely to wake up when you hear the low alarm. That said, a LOW will always wake me up. My husband, meanwhile, will sleep right through those alarms. Scary.


Yes it is very scary. Also scary that people rely on cgm so much for insulin dosing.


I find my dex drifts down during the night even though my bg is level. Lots of boys who cried wolf… Maybe its a hydration thing?


yeah and maybe a pressure thing too. I think just doing the finger stick helps because he squirms around and often moves off that sensor arm.


Welcome, @mlg!

Similar to @Sam’s attachment idea, I found that putting the receiver in my pillowcase tends to scare the living bejeezus out of me when setting to alarm on lows.


Sounds like it’s not really hypo unawareness so much as being too deep of a sleeper then—if he didn’t feel the lows during the day either, then he would just need to rely entirely on the Dexcom for low alerts, but it sounds like his body is capable of registering lows. For a lot of people, including myself, who are sensitive to lows, the increased sympathetic nervous system activity that drives the feeling of being shaky and sweaty etc also wakes you up, since it drives up the heart rate and does various things that generally are not helpful when sleeping. If your son sleeps really deeply though (I’m guessing he’s generally hard to wake up/can sleep through a lot?), that might not happen for him. It’s sort of similar to how some kids sleep so deeply their brain doesn’t register cues from their bladder that they need to pee and wake up for that, which is something usually the brain learns to do, but for some, it’s tough. So I wonder if there might be ways similar to what’s done with bed wetting therapy to essentially train the brain to sleep just a little bit lighter so it detects those cues… It could be that if you can rig up better alarms to both wake him up and make him get himself up to turn them off and treat the low (vs assisting him so he doesn’t have to wake up fully), his brain will figure it out better with time. I’m just guessing with that, but it seems plausible.


Yes. I totally agree cardamom.
He is a very deep sleeper. He did also struggle with bed wetting when he was younger. I think maybe putting the receiver in his pillowcase might work. I’m going to try all of these ideas until I find one that works.


I used to put mine in my briefs but eventually it became obvious that I was intentionally running low all night…


@mlg, welcome! I was dealing with an iced up driveway yesterday and did not find my way over here until this morning :slight_smile:

This is a familiar phenomenon for me as well. My 13-year-old is a very deep sleeper.

I am actually working on this problem right now, based on feedback from the forum. Here are some thoughts:

  • my son rarely wakes up from lows, even deep lows, although he feels daytime lows appropriately. This is certainly common among teens.

  • Outside of pressure lows, we do not see a significant over-alarming from dexcom, unless we have alarms set at inappropriate levels, which is often: my son keeps his daytime alarm around 75-80 so as to preempt lows. But at night it should be lower, since over-alarming trains you to NOT wake up. he often forgets to adjust his alarming when going to bed.

  • good calibration prior to going to bed is really important, since that is often what causes false lows. When we are well-calibrated we are within 5 or so if steady. Sometimes, that is not the case, so we lower the alarm levels. For instance, if the Dexcom reads 15 low after calibration (and we don’t want to recalibrate), we will lower night alarms by 15.

  • Pressure lows (are you familiar with those?) can be minimized by picking Dexcom location carefully. If you are using the belly, for instance, positioning it closer to the centerline, for us, minimizes pressure lows.

  • We find that, for us, what happens in the last few hours before bed makes a big difference to bedtime issues. We have moved to having very early dinners, so that the insulin tail won’t affect my son too much at night. For us, we found out that the tail lasts 5.5 hours, much more than we expected until we carefully investigated it. So we try to have dinner around 6-6:30, much earlier than we used to, and to avoid any later insulin injections if at all possible.

I am VERY concerned about college, as are all the parents on this site. So I totally understand your fear. When thinking at my son, I feel that it is critical for me to “retrain” him to minimize night alarms as much as possible and make them all count.

@Bradford, do you have any thoughts of how we migth be able to use IFTTT for alarming with the maisntream dexcom app?


I believe @TiaG setup a pretty quick and easy solution that just involves a WiFi siren.

It really just depends on what kind of alarm you are looking for. I’ve heard of people using bed shakers to wake them up as well. You could use a simple WiFi outlet and plug in the thing you want to turn on.


I personally have a TV in my room with a laptop connected to it running Nightscout. If my son goes low, the alarm will sound as loud as the TV volume can go. I’ve never slept through that yet. @mlg, are you familiar with Nightscout or IFTTT?


That’s such a difficult thing. When someone’s very low MORE SUGAR seems like the answer but then you’re on the low/high/low rollercoaster. Math is extra hard when EH is low for him (and he’s generally great at math) and he used to use it as an indicator of being low before the Dex.

We’ve found putting the Dex receiver on something hard is enough to make a louder noise. But often he misses the alarms on the first go - EH has gotten used to it and sometimes sleeps through it and doesn’t remember sleeping through it. :frowning:

Being diligent about changing the low thresholds before bed like @ClaudnDaye mentioned is helpful. Gives him a little time to catch it before it’s 20.


Hers requires Nightscout. is there a solution that plugs into the dexcom app that you can think of?


If you don’t want to use Nightscout (mine is actually bridged from the Dexcom server), then you could use Nightwatch. With that app, you can link your Dexcom to it and create custom alarms at custom ranges. You could then pair it with an external speaker for added volume if needed. Nightwatch is specifically useful if you have an Android device and/or Android watch.


I know there are other apps out there, but I don’t have first-hand knowledge of them. I highly recommend getting a Nightscout site–as it is FREE and you have the ability to use those alarms to create IFTTT recipes. You can also set different alarm thresholds as a sort of backup to your primary alarms with the receiver.

In my opinion, no system is 100% without fault–so the more layers you have as backup alarms–the better.


I get Nightscout just thru dexcom share. I use it so I can get bg on my garmin when I run (if I have battery, phone signal, etc). It took an hour or so to set it up and there are decent instructions out there on the nightscout website.


Hi Michel! Thanks for the great insight. Yes I am familiar with pressure lows. Unfortunately we could not get the Dexcom to work on his belly. He was wearing it on left arm and now it is on his butt. Pressure lows don’t seem to be too much of an issue though.
Getting him to calibrate before bed is something I have really been working on, but he still forgets all the time.

I have not heard of IFTTT or NightScout. I am not very tech saavy. Can this be used with iphone?


@mlg, my wife runs the G5 app as a follower, and has an alarm on her phone that scares me half to death when it goes off. I can easily sleep through an alarm on the G5 receiver, but not the fire siren she has set up as a low ringtone.


FWIW, I had a hard time waking up to the Dexcom receiver or the phone alerts. These days, I wear cargo sweatpants to bed and keep my phone in one of the cargo pockets. I wake up every time now. Not sure why that works for me and other things don’t, but I’m glad I kept trying until I found something. (The cargo sweatpants are from LL Bean and are awesome. They might be a little warm if you live somewhere that has summer, but I live in San Francisco so it’s always cool at night.)

As far as college goes, I had a friend who lived at home during college so her parents could keep an ear out for lows. That only works if you live near a college of course.


Thanks for the tip on the cargo sweatpants…looking now @ned. BTW is way way warmer in the South Bay, lol


I have considered that as an option for my son. But I am afraid this would need to originate from him :slight_smile:

I do feel that he should be able to experience college in a dorm like everyone. But I am worried about night lows of course.