How to Manage Morning Blood Sugar Highs

  • Waking up with high morning blood sugar levels can be due to various causes and may also be a marker for chronic problems.
  • It is important to identify the cause before taking the appropriate treatment or preventative measure.
  • The Dawn Phenomenon is one scenario to consider; a morning high between 3 to 8 a.m. caused by the release of certain hormones. 

Waking up to a high blood sugar reading can throw off your entire daily schedule. This can also mean a chronic problem. High morning blood sugar levels are a concern, especially if it becomes a pattern. But these morning highs can still be improved by taking steps to address it. 

The 3 Most Common Causes

1. The Dawn Phenomenon

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The dawn phenomenon is relatively common among diabetics. It is the increase in blood sugar in the morning, usually between 3 and 8 a.m., resulting from the release of certain hormones in the body.

“These hormones are designed to get us up and moving in the morning,” says endocrinologist Dr. Renee Amori, MD, of the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

While these changes in hormone levels naturally occur, diabetics may not properly adjust to it causing them to experience higher-than-normal blood sugar upon waking up.

Testing for elevated morning blood sugars can help diagnose people with type 2 diabetes. 

2. The Somogyi Effect

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You may be experiencing the Somogyi effect if your blood sugar levels keep rising despite taking medications to lower your morning blood sugar.

Dr. Amori says this occurs when stress hormones are released to make up for the hypoglycemic reactions at night. Signs of hypoglycemia include headache, excessive sweating, and difficulty waking in the morning.

3. Dwindling Insulin

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Diminishing insulin levels may reduce your body’s ability to control your blood sugar. As a result, you wake up to an elevated level. 

Identifying what causes your morning blood sugar high

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Here’s how to identify which of the three scenarios causes your condition:

  1. If your blood sugar is constant from bedtime until around 3 a.m. then rises, it may be the dawn effect.
  2. Decreased blood sugar level at 3 a.m. suggests the Somogyi effect.
  3. Blood sugar levels that rise from bedtime to 3 a.m. then even goes higher than normal upon waking may be caused by waning insulin.

Dr. Amori suggests using a continuous glucose monitor that can help isolate patterns and severity of high and low blood sugars. 

Tips on managing your high morning blood sugar

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While it can be “tough to beat” blood sugar high in the morning, all of the three common causes can be treated, says Dr. Amori.

Consult with your doctor about the following approaches you can try:

  • Adjusting your pump to help control your elevated levels especially if you’re regularly testing high. 
  • Checking blood sugar before bed or avoid sleeping with high levels, warns Dr. Amori. 
  • Taking basal insulin at bedtime. Make sure to inform your doctor before trying it, however.
  • Modifying your medication schedule. If you are experiencing the Somogyi effect, you may want to alter the dose taken in the evening that could cause low blood sugar. To treat morning highs, consult your doctor regarding the timing of your medications. 
  • Healthy snacks before bedtime. Dr. Amori recommends a snack of protein and carbohydrates to prevent raised nighttime blood sugar levels. He also suggests working with a certified dietitian to help you fit a pre-bedtime snack into your diet.
  • Being physically active. Daily exercise can help regulate your blood sugar more effectively. Do your homework and learn how to safely increase your physical activity if you are taking insulin.

Source: Everyday Health

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