Last updated on October 30th, 2023
What is Morning Blood Sugar?
Morning blood sugar, also known as fasting blood sugar, is the glucose level in your bloodstream when you wake up. In people who have type-2 diabetes, this level is usually higher than at the other times of the day. You might find it surprising, but your morning blood sugar levels can be higher despite not eating for hours. So, what causes this spike? The answer lies in a very interesting phenomenon, called the Dawn’s phenomenon that unfolds during the night.
According to recent studies, approximately 50% of people with Type 2 diabetes experience elevated morning blood sugar, and this phenomenon poses a significant challenge for effective diabetes management. To understand why is blood sugar higher in the morning, let’s first understand Dawn’s phenomenon in detail.
During the night, your body undergoes several hormonal changes. It releases hormones such as cortisol and growth hormone, which prompt your liver to release more glucose into your bloodstream.
For instance, between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m., your body releases hormones like cortisol and growth hormones.
The function of these hormones:
- Cortisol: Often called the “stress hormone,” the release of cortisol at night happens even if you’re not under stress and even if you don’t have diabetes. Cortisol is a hormone that helps you wake up and become alert. It serves as an energy booster and instructs your liver to release glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream. This glucose release provides the energy your body needs to start the day.
- Growth Hormone: Growth hormone is released primarily during deep sleep and is responsible for the growth and repair of various body tissues. It acts as a repair and maintenance crew for your body during the night. While growth hormone itself doesn’t directly raise blood sugar levels, the repair and growth processes it initiates may increase the body’s energy requirements, potentially leading to higher glucose production by the liver.
So, while these hormones signal your liver to boost glucose production, this boost of glucose increases your blood sugar (glucose).
The pancreas of a diabetic person either doesn’t make any insulin or the enough amount of insulin needed to respond to the rise in blood sugar, resulting in high levels of blood sugar. Insulin resistance can also contribute to this phenomenon. However, if you don’t have diabetes, your pancreas responds and releases an adequate amount of insulin to regulate your blood sugar.
The Somogyi Effect: Another Cause for High Morning Blood Suga The Somogyi effect is another cause of morning blood sugar fluctuation. You should be aware of the difference between the dawn phenomenon and the Somogyi effect.
The main difference here is that the dawn phenomenon happens due to natural hormonal changes, whereas the Somogyi effect is a result of your body’s response to low blood sugar during the night, which triggers a surge in counter-regulatory hormones.
Let’s take a closer look:
|Aspect||Dawn Phenomenon||Somogyi Effect|
|When It Occurs||The Dawn Phenomenon typically takes place in the early morning, usually from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m., as the body prepares to awaken.||The Somogyi Effect, conversely, happens during the night, particularly during sleep hours.|
|Cause||The Dawn Phenomenon is initiated by a natural hormonal process. Cortisol, among other hormones, prepares the body for the day, raising the blood sugar to provide morning energy.||The Somogyi Effect is a response to low nighttime blood sugar levels. In reaction to hypoglycemia, the body releases hormones, driving an increase in blood sugar.|
|Blood Sugar Patterns||The Dawn Phenomenon generally leads to elevated blood sugar in the morning, preparing the body for the day ahead.||The Somogyi Effect creates a pattern of initial low blood sugar followed by a rebound increase, often resulting in high morning blood sugar.|
|Underlying Mechanism||The Dawn Phenomenon is an inherent part of the body’s circadian rhythm, ensuring the body’s readiness in the morning. However, in individuals with diabetes, it may lead to high morning blood sugar.||The Somogyi Effect acts as a safeguard mechanism to counter nocturnal low blood sugar, but it may inadvertently lead to elevated morning blood sugar.|
|Management Strategies||Managing the Dawn Phenomenon typically involves adjustments to medication timing, dietary choices, and lifestyle factors to maintain morning blood sugar within an acceptable range.||Dealing with the Somogyi Effect often necessitates changes in the evening insulin regimen, dietary choices, and the prevention of nighttime hypoglycemia, all to achieve a balanced blood sugar profile.|
Read More: 15 Foods To Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Symptoms of High Blood Sugar in the Morning
High morning blood sugar levels can show up with a few red flags, including:
- Increased thirst,
- Frequent urination,
- fatigue, and
- Blurry vision.
For example, if you have consistently high blood glucose in the morning, you might experience unexplained fatigue throughout the day or notice increased thirst and more frequent trips to the bathroom.
What Should Your Blood Sugar Be When You Wake Up?
The optimal fasting blood sugar level in the morning typically falls within the range of 70 to 100 mg/dL.
However, it’s essential to recognise that this range can vary significantly from person to person. Several factors, including age, overall health, and the severity of diabetes, can influence the target range for each individual. For example, a person without diabetes typically falls within the lower end of this range, while those with well-managed diabetes might aim for values closer to the upper end.
Note: It’s crucial to work closely with your healthcare provider to establish a personalised target range that takes into account your specific circumstances and health goals. They can provide guidance on what constitutes a healthy morning blood sugar level for you and help you monitor your progress in managing it effectively.
Read More: 10 Best Glucometers in India
How to Lower Morning Blood Sugar?
To manage your morning blood sugar effectively, consider the following:
1. Regular Exercise:
Exercise can improve insulin sensitivity, enabling your body to regulate blood sugar levels more efficiently. Engage in various forms of exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or strength training. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, or as recommended by your healthcare provider. Include flexibility and strength exercises for a well-rounded routine.
Health Tip: A brisk morning walk or a few minutes of stretching can help kickstart your metabolism and stabilise blood sugar.
2. Balanced Diet:
A balanced diet with the right mix of macronutrients can help maintain stable morning blood sugar levels. Focus on whole grains, lean protein sources (like poultry, fish, and beans), and fibre-rich foods. Minimise the consumption of simple carbohydrates, particularly in the evening. Incorporating complex carbohydrates like quinoa or sweet potatoes can lead to more stable levels of blood glucose in the morning.
Health Tip: Spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the day to avoid large carbohydrate loads in the evening, which can exacerbate the Dawn Phenomenon.
3. Time Your Meals:
When you eat and how well your insulin or medications work can influence the impact of the Dawn Phenomenon on your blood sugar. Try to have dinner at a reasonable hour to avoid overlapping the effects of your evening meal with the Dawn Phenomenon. Additionally, ensure that your insulin or medications are correctly timed to counteract the rising blood sugar effectively.
Health Tip: Establish a routine of fasting at night, which means not eating for 10-12 hours. Align your meal and snack times with your specific daily schedule. For example, if you have breakfast at 8:30 a.m., aim to consume nighttime meals and snacks between 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.
4. Medication and Insulin Management:
Strictly adhere to your prescribed medications and insulin regimen as advised by your healthcare provider. Any adjustments should only be made under their guidance.
Health Tip: Some people with diabetes might need to adjust their medication timing or dosage to account for morning fluctuations in blood sugar.
5. Evening Snack:
Consuming a small, balanced snack before bedtime can help stabilise blood sugar levels throughout the night. This snack should contain a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to provide sustained energy.
Health Tip: A suitable evening snack to control the morning blood sugar level is a handful of almonds with a few whole-grain crackers.
6. Stress Management:
Chronic stress can contribute to high blood sugar levels. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to minimise the impact of cortisol on your blood sugar levels.
Health Tip: Incorporate stress-reduction activities into your daily routine, such as a brief mindfulness session in the morning. Consistent stress management can positively influence your blood sugar control.
Note: Reducing fasting blood sugar requires a comprehensive approach that should be discussed in detail with your healthcare provider. This approach typically includes lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and medication management tailored to your body’s specific needs.
Read More: What is Insulin & How Does It Work?
Best Time to Check Blood Sugar in the Morning
The most accurate time to check your morning blood sugar is immediately upon waking, before consuming any food or beverages. This measurement offers a clear picture of your fasting blood sugar levels, allowing you to make informed decisions about your diabetes management throughout the day.
When to Contact a Doctor:
While managing your morning blood sugar using the strategies and techniques outlined in this guide, it’s crucial to be aware of when to seek medical guidance and assistance. Contacting a doctor or healthcare provider is essential for ensuring your diabetes or blood sugar management is on the right track.
Here are some key instances when you should reach out to your healthcare team:
1. Consistently High Morning Blood Sugar:
If your morning blood sugar remains consistently high despite your best efforts in diet, exercise, and medication management, it’s time to consult your healthcare provider. They can help identify underlying issues, adjust your treatment plan, or recommend additional tests to uncover any complications.
2. New or Unusual Symptoms:
Any new or unusual symptoms you experience in the morning or throughout the day should be reported to your healthcare provider. These symptoms may indicate complications or side effects from medications that require immediate attention.
3. Pregnancy or Planning for Pregnancy:
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and have diabetes, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider for specialised guidance on managing your blood sugar during this critical time.
4. Changes in Medications or Treatment Plan:
If your healthcare provider recommends changes to your medication or treatment plan, ensure that you understand the adjustments and follow their guidance. Reach out if you have any questions or concerns about the changes and their potential impact on your morning blood sugar.
Overall Health Concerns: Any changes in your overall health, such as the development of other medical conditions or the need for surgery, can affect your blood sugar management. Communicate these changes to your healthcare provider so they can make necessary accommodations.
5. Stress or Emotional Health Issues:
If you’re experiencing significant stress, anxiety, or other emotional health issues that may be impacting your blood sugar, discuss these concerns with your healthcare provider. They can provide guidance on managing stress and its effects on your blood sugar.
Note: Even when your blood sugar management appears stable, it’s essential to schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider as part of your ongoing care. Regular assessments can detect any issues early and ensure that your treatment plan remains effective.
The dawn phenomenon is something your body does naturally in the early morning hours. It’s driven by changes in hormones, especially cortisol, and can cause higher blood sugar levels when you have diabetes. Understanding this phenomenon is important to make changes to your blood sugar management and avoid complications. Monitoring your blood sugar, timing your meals, and adjusting your medication regimen, if needed, are key strategies for handling the dawn phenomenon effectively. Consulting with your healthcare provider is highly recommended to create a personalised plan to manage morning blood sugar fluctuations, including the dawn phenomenon.
To lower morning blood sugar, try these tips: exercise regularly, eat a balanced breakfast with complex carbohydrates and protein, monitor portion sizes, avoid high-sugar foods, manage stress levels, and take prescribed medications as directed.
Diabetics may experience low blood sugar in the morning due to an overproduction of insulin, delayed digestion of food from the previous night, or an imbalance between medication dosage and carbohydrate intake.
For low blood sugar in the morning, consider eating a balanced breakfast that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Examples include whole grain toast with avocado and eggs, Greek yoghurt with berries, or oatmeal with nuts and seeds.
Symptoms of low blood sugar in the morning can include dizziness, shakiness, sweating, confusion, weakness, hunger, headache, and difficulty concentrating. If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to check your blood sugar levels and take appropriate action.
The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.