You have been disciplined and ate well last night but you woke up this morning to find out that your blood sugar levels were on the highs. You don’t recall cheating at your last meal and you may be beating yourself up wondering what the hell did happen? You’re right to not doubting yourself. This has nothing to do with what you did or did not do. What just happened to you and happens to many people living with type-2 diabetes is what we call the dawn phenomenon.
The dawn phenomenon
This phenomenon occurs early in the morning, usually between 2 am and 8 am, where your cortisol, glucagon, epinephrine and growth hormones signal your liver to release glucose it has in store in order to provide you with energy that you need to wake up (Mayo Clinic). The pancreas then should be releasing insulin to keep the blood glucose levels in check, however in people who are insulin resistant or don’t produce enough insulin, this is not sufficient and they end up waking up to a high blood sugar level (American Diabetes Association). High morning blood sugar levels may also be caused due to insufficient insulin intake or anti-diabetic medications the night before.
What can you do?
If you constantly experience high blood sugar levels early in the morning, you may want to check your blood glucose levels once during the night to help you and your doctor determine what may be causing your abnormal morning blood sugar rise (Mayo Clinic). Depending on the results of your night readings, your doctor may advice you to:
- Avoid any carbohydrates before bedtime
- Adjust your dose of insulin or anti-diabetic medication or switch your medication
- Take your insulin or anti-diabetic medication at bedtime instead of dinner time
- Use an insulin pump to produce extra insulin and help regulate the sugar rise in the early morning.
There are other things you could simply do at home (Medical News Today) such as increasing your ratio of proteins to carbohydrates at the evening meal to help prevent sugar spikes in the morning, drinking a large glass of water, doing a gentle physical activity after dinner such as yoga or an evening walk and eating breakfast even if your glucose levels are high as this will help stop the production of the hormones contributing to the dawn phenomenon.
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American Diabetes Association: “High Morning Blood Sugars” (available from https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/treatment-care/high-morning-blood-glucose)
Mayo Clinic: “The Dawn phenomenon, what can you do?” (available from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/dawn-effect/faq-20057937)
Medical News Today: “How to manage the dawn phenomenon” (available from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317351)