A New Low

There have been two evening concert band rehearsals this winter, from 6:30-9 p.m. These are intense monthly rehearsals during which the kids are playing challenging music non-stop.

The nights after both of these rehearsals have been multiple juice box affairs.

After 14 years of T1D, we have learned when to expect most lows.

Running, dancing, swimming, and miscalculating the number of carbs in a meal are the causes everyone knowledgeable about diabetes would expect. 

Slow but steady walking, staying up late even if it involves no physical activity, and being sick with a cold all also trigger lows for my kid.

Could playing a wind instrument for an extended period also lead to dropping blood sugar?

The first post- concert band rehearsal low seemed to come completely out of the blue. She hadn't been having any overnight lows at the time, and the rest of the day hadn't involved any unusual food or activity. The only variable I could come up with was the rehearsal. Could the physical exertion of playing her clarinet for that long combined with the mental energy to concentrate on and learn new and difficult music be what led to a 50-something blood sugar so slow to budge? Maybe, I guessed, but since one instance doesn't make a pattern, we chalked up to a mystery low and set the episode aside.

Until it happened again this week. Both times she was at a nice 90-ish number when she came home and had a snack. Then around 1 a.m., she tanked.

Despite using a variety of search terms, my research turned up only one mention of this phenomenon. It's master's thesis from 2006 by Derrick Alan Crow called 'The Effect of Instrumental Rehearsal on Blood Glucose Levels of Five Low Brass Players.'  The link will take you to a several-page preview of the study, which was all I was able to access. His participants, as far as I can tell, did not have diabetes. The blood sugar checks were before, during and immediately after rehearsals, not hours later. But his preliminary background research was interesting and, based on it, he posed some logical hypotheses. His results, while inconclusive mostly due to the small sample, did note some trends of lowering blood sugars during long rehearsals. His theory was that between the mental, aerobic (from breathing), and muscular energy expended by a wind instrument player during a lengthy rehearsal, blood sugar levels drop.

I'd love to see this study repeated in instrumentalists with diabetes. I'd love to see the research include investigating a delayed drop of the sort people with diabetes see with some other kinds of exercise. Clearly, I need to befriend a musical scholar. Or convince my kid to become one.

Meanwhile, we'll plan on covering fewer carbs on concert band nights, and/or setting a temporary basal rate. Or maybe next time this won't happen at all.


  1. I assume (I do not play so I do not know) that playing is a form of physical activity. Physical activity causes lows so I think it is possible.

  2. Derrick has another study that was with people who play a variety of instruments. He was the only diabetic in the study. Yes, extended rehearsal will lower blood sugar in both diabetics and non-diabetics. He will probable send you his work and will chat with you. He's a great guy. I was his supervising professor for these studies. I was not diabetic at the time, but now I am Type II. And because of Derrick's work, I always take a snack with me when playing the organ or piano for an extended time.


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