Things You'll Need
- Blood glucose monitor
- Test strips
- Insulin or other diabetes medication
If you suffer from diabetes, you will likely experience mysteriously high blood sugar readings in the morning. This can happen for different reasons, and often in spite of following a healthy diet and exercise plan. It is important to learn the cause of your high morning glucose spike to effectively treat it.
Check your blood sugar throughout the night for several nights in a row. This will help you determine the likely cause of your high morning blood sugar. Mindy Saenz, RD, clinical dietician and diabetes educator at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University recommends checking your blood glucose at bedtime, 3 a.m. and upon waking.
Consider the Dawn Phenomenon if your blood glucose is steady between bedtime and 3 a.m., and then rises between 3 a.m. and sunrise. The Dawn Phenomenon refers to a rise in blood sugar that happens in the early morning and is caused by natural hormonal changes in the body. “The body releases hormones like cortisol and growth hormone and the blood glucose rises,” says David S. Schade, MB, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Endocrinology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque. “For people with diabetes, the rise in blood glucose can be substantial.”
Determine if you’re experiencing the Somogyi Effect. Named after Michael Somogyi, Ph.D., the Somogyi Effect “happens after low blood glucose induced by excess insulin, alcohol consumption or not having enough food,” says Stuart T. Haines, PharmD, BCPS, professor and pharmacotherapy specialist at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore. If your blood glucose reading is low at 3 a.m., you could be experiencing the Somogyi Effect.
Avoid alcohol at night. Research shows that moderate consumption of alcohol in the evening hours affects nocturnal growth hormone secretions, leading to morning hypoglycemia. In a study conducted by Dr. Robert S. Sherwin from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, six men with Type 1 diabetes were given wine with their evening meals. By 10 a.m. the next morning, five of the six subjects required treatment for hypoglycemia.
Consume a snack in the evening. If you determine that you are experiencing the Dawn Phenomenon, limit your carbohydrates at night and eat a snack with protein and some fat in order to prevent your blood sugar from rising. If you think you may be experiencing the Somogyi Effect, incorporate healthy carbohydrates and fat into your last evening meal to slow digestion so that your body has a readily available supply of carbohydrates to last longer into the night.
Manipulate your medication. Ask your doctor how you can adjust your dosage of insulin or other diabetes medication to avoid high morning sugar. If you take pills, increasing your nighttime dosage or taking an extra dose before bed may help. If you use insulin, you may need to split your dose so that it will last longer through the night.