Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
If you’re one of the many people throughout the world today who take insulin for diabetes and still struggle with particularly high levels of blood glucose in the morning, it may help to know that you’re not alone. This issue is actually highly common, and can be assisted through various solutions once you understand exactly what is happening.
Many people believe that it is the foods they eat the evening before that have an impact on blood glucose levels the next day. However, the truth is that often the culprit is actually the high number of hormones that are used to help control your blood sugar level.
The Dawn Phenomenon
One cause that doctors have attributed to diabetics suffering from higher blood glucose levels in morning is known as the “dawn phenomenon”. The best way to understand this is to recognize that the body naturally releases a number of different hormones to help prepare it for waking up. Usually, between 4 am and 6:30 am, your body will secrete epinephrine, cortisol, and norepinephrine – the hormones that are usually involved in the bodily fight or flight response. Their job is to give the body the energy it needs to get up and moving.
Unsurprisingly, as these hormones raise your energy levels, they also boost your blood sugar level, as it’s difficult to make an energetic response without some kind of fuel. After these stress hormones have been secreted, glucose, plasma, and insulin begin to rise – at least in a person without diabetes. While diabetes-free people can use the insulin levels to control the morning glucose, diabetics cannot, so instead of energy, they simply get a rise in blood sugar.
The Somogyi Effect
Another cause of higher blood glucose levels in morning is named after the doctor who wrote about it first. The Somogyi effect refers to a pattern of your blood sugar being too high in the morning after it has been far too low. Usually, there are no symptoms to prove this, but night sweats can act as a sign.
During the night, your blood sugar levels may drop, and your body may release hormones in an attempt to raise it. This might happen if you take too much insulin during the day, or you didn’t have much of a bedtime snack before going to sleep. Usually, in order to learn what is causing your higher blood sugar in the morning, your doctor may ask you to check your levels between 2 and 3 am for a few nights. If your levels are low during that time, then the Somogyi effect is probably the cause.
Managing High Morning Blood Glucose Level
Once you have figured out with your doctor why and how your blood glucose levels in the morning are behaving as they are, you may attempt some lifestyle changes to manage the problem. For example, you could change the type of insulin that you use to treat your condition, to ensure that it doesn’t peak at the wrong time. Another solution could be switching to an insulin pump, which can be programmed to release the perfect amount of insulin at the right time during problem periods.