Have you ever experienced high blood sugars in the morning
right when you wake up? You’re not alone! Turns out 50% of people with Type 2
diabetes have high blood sugar first thing in the morning due to what is called
the ‘dawn phenomenon.’
What is the Dawn Phenomenon?
When we are sleeping our bodies require very little energy.
However right before we wake up our body releases different hormones including
growth hormone, cortisol, glucagon, and epinephrine. These hormones signal the
liver to release glucose (sugar) to provide us with energy as we start our day.
This is a natural process of the body. For individuals without diabetes it does
not cause any problems as the body will release a small amount of insulin to
naturally balance it out. However, for individuals with diabetes, they may have
a hard time controlling this early morning rise due to inadequate insulin.
How can I tell if Dawn Phenomenon is impacting my diabetes
This abnormal blood sugar increase usually occurs between
2:00 am-8:00 am. If you have noticed a trend of high blood sugar in the morning
it would be recommended to check your blood sugar in the early morning, usually
between 2:00 am-3:00 am, for a few days in a row. If your readings are high at
this time in the morning it is likely that the dawn phenomenon is to blame.
What if my blood glucose is normal or low between 2-3 am?
If you are having high blood glucose when you wake up but it
is normal or low when checking with a glucometer between 2:00 am-3:00 am it is
likely from another cause. This may be due to the Somogyi effect. This is
believed to occur when your blood sugar drops too low and your body jumps in to
try to raise your blood sugar back to normal. It does this by releasing
hormones that rebound your blood glucose, often leading to a high reading.
Other reasons could include that your insulin dose was inadequate before bed,
you had a high-carbohydrate snack before bed, or your dose of antidiabetic
medication is too low.
What are things I can do to improve high morning blood
First and foremost, if you are routinely having high blood
sugar readings in the morning you should talk to your doctor and/or certified
diabetes educator to determine an individualized plan of action. Some examples
of what they may suggest include:
Eat Dinner Earlier. If you tend to eat a very late dinner, moving it up a few
hours could make a big difference.
Change up or eliminate your bedtime snack. First, determine if your bedtime snack has
a purpose. Are you really hungry for it or just eating it because you're bored?
If you’re really not hungry, it may be best to just skip it and find something
else to do. If you are hungry, try a higher protein snack with little to no
carbs, such as a cup of cottage cheese, a handful of nuts, hard-boiled egg, or
a low-sugar Greek yogurt.
Add a light walk after dinner. Participating in some light exercise after dinner
will help to naturally lower your blood glucose. Try walking, bedtime yoga,
shooting a basketball, or even sweeping or vacuuming the floor.
Always eat breakfast. Although some people may not want to eat when they see their
blood sugars are high, eating first thing in the morning may help balance the
hormones that are causing the blood sugars to rise. Experiment with different
amounts of carbohydrates and proteins to see what works best for you.