A Detailed Guide on How to Lower Blood Sugar in the Morning

Braden G. Barnett, MD

2021 Dec 30

10 min read

Diabetes management plans have proven to be one of the best ways people with diabetes effectively maintain low blood sugar. However, there are certain times when these plans may not be efficient for ensuring healthy blood sugar levels, and one of these times is in the morning.

Experiencing a blood sugar high in the morning is a normal occurrence that happens to every human and ordinarily should not cause any complication. However, for people with diabetes, high morning blood sugar could spell danger as their bodies find it difficult to decrease highs to the normal range.

Generally, diabetics that keep a strict management plan shouldn’t have a problem with occasional, minimal morning highs. However, consistent morning high blood sugar should trigger concerns. It negatively affects the A1C reading—a test that measures your average blood glucose/sugar levels over the last three months—and could push it to a dangerous zone.

The good thing is that you can reduce blood glucose level rise with the right approach. In this guide, you’ll learn what causes blood glucose levels to increase and how to reduce their effect to ensure you maintain low blood sugar levels, or rather a healthy range.

What to Expect?

  • Why Is My Blood Sugar High in the Morning?
  • How to Lower Blood Sugar In The Morning

Why Is My Blood Sugar High in the Morning?

Source: MyNetDiary

Most people with diabetes that keep to their management plan and eliminate a carb-studded diet before sleeping often wonder why they have high morning blood sugars. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are several reasons why blood sugar increases in the morning.

The organization outlines two major factors as the reason for the morning highs. They include:

  • The dawn phenomenon: This is responsible for most blood sugar spikes that people with diabetes experience.
  • Waning insulin: This is generally responsible for abnormally high blood sugar levels.
  • The Somogyi effect: This is an extremely rare factor responsible for high blood sugar in the morning.

The Dawn Phenomenon

The dawn phenomenon, as already stated, is the primary cause of blood sugar rise in the morning. It’s so-called because the increase in blood glucose levels starts in the early hours of a new day.

Hormones such as cortisol and growth hormone alert the liver to increase glucose production to help you wake up. This triggers the pancreatic beta cells, alerting them to release insulin to ensure a proper balance of the blood sugar levels. This balance helps keep the sugar level in the right proportion.

However, if you have diabetes, your insulin level may be too low to control your blood glucose, or you could suffer insulin resistance, making it impossible to counter blood sugar level increase. This lack of balance in your system causes you to have a blood sugar level by the time you wake up.

Whether you’re suffering from type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you get to experience the dawn phenomenon. However, how bad it gets depends on the consistency of occurrence, which could be on the high side if you frequently consume food with excess sugar.

Waning Insulin

People with diabetes may also suffer from a rise in sugar level if they experience a drop in insulin level the night before. Many factors could lead to this drop. The commonest is when the insulin pump that increases insulin provides little basal insulin or if your insulin dose, necessary for boosting insulin level, is too low.

Another reason that could lead to waning insulin in the morning is dependent on how long your drug works and when you inject your long-acting insulin. Whichever may be the case, a lack of enough insulin the night before would automatically lead to waning insulin that cannot keep blood sugar under control.

The Somogyi Effect

The Somogyi effect is a rare cause for morning highs but still triggers it nonetheless. The effect is named in honor of Michael Somogyi, a Ph.D. scientist that described the term in the early 90s.

The Somogyi effect happens when the human body responds to low blood glucose levels at night.

For example, suppose a person with diabetes misses dinner, which could increase their blood sugar level a little or take too much insulin to keep their blood glucose at a low range. In that case, their body automatically compensates for the imbalance by releasing glucose during sleep. As such, the person experiences a rise in blood level the following morning.

Since the Somogyi effect is quite rare, most diabetics don’t get to experience it while managing their condition.

Whatever may cause your blood sugar spikes in the early morning hours out of the three factors mentioned above, you must identify it and find a way to prevent future recurrence. Consistent spikes, as already stated, will affect your overall sugar level, which could predispose you to a worsened diabetic state and comorbidities.

How to Lower Blood Sugar In The Morning

Knowing how to prevent blood sugar spikes in the morning is critical to maintaining sound health. This section discusses various approaches on how to lower morning blood sugar.

Gather the Right Information

If you have a working diabetes management plan that you’re committed to, you don’t have to worry about morning highs, except you’re sure that you do experience them. Hence, you must ask yourself some questions to determine if you experience morning spikes and if they’re a concern.

Some of the questions that you should ask yourself include:

  • Do I experience a spike in the morning?
  • Why is my sugar high in the morning, OR why is my glucose high in the morning?
  • Is it consistent enough to cause concern?

If your answer to the three questions above tends to be positive, it’s essential to know how to get to the root cause of your problem. To do this, you have to establish some routine patterns.

Check your blood sugar levels just before you go to sleep, and also repeat the same in the middle of the night. When you wake up in the morning, repeat the process also.

This three-way blood sugar check will help you understand the pattern of your condition, its cause, and if it’s consistent enough to affect your average A1C reading.

However, if you find it difficult to wake up and monitor your blood sugar levels at these three different moments, you should use a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). This device gathers all the data you need without you having to wake between periods of sleep.

Identifying the Root Cause

The readings you establish after your three-way glucose check will help you and your health care provider narrow your spikes to any of the three factors that generally trigger a high.

If You Experience a High Just Before You Go to Sleep

If your glucose checks just before you go to sleep reveal that you experience a spike just before you sleep, the biggest culprit is food. The type of diabetes medication you take could also be responsible for the high.

The bottom line is that high blood sugar levels in the night will generally cross over to the morning, and you could ignorantly blame it on the dawn phenomenon when it’s apparently not the case.

Large foods with lots of carbs or a dinner made of snacks will increase your blood sugar levels and put you in a dangerous zone all night, subsequently increasing your A1C reading. Your diabetes medication’s dose could also be responsible for a high sugar level just before you sleep without you knowing.

Therefore, you must take just enough insulin to put your blood sugar levels in a healthy range. In that case, even if your blood glucose level experiences an increase during sleep, it won’t trigger a lot of concern.

If You Experience a Spike in the Wee Hours of the Morning

If your blood check shows that you suffer a rise in blood glucose levels in the early hours of dawn or between 3 a.m. to 8 a.m., then the dawn phenomenon is likely the more probable cause of your condition.

For those that experience an increase in the early hours of dawn, your doctor may recommend that you reduce your dependence on long-acting insulin as it could be an enhancer of the dawn phenomenon.

While an increased insulin dose brings your highs to the normal range and triggers significant blood sugar drops, your relief will only last for a while because your body will react and try to provide the lacking glucose. Hence, you’ll have an increased blood sugar level when you wake up in the morning.

One of the primary ways to tackle the dawn phenomenon is to use an insulin pump. During dawn, you can program your pump to enhance insulin sensitivity and trigger a blood sugar drop. This will consistently keep your condition in control and help you establish better glucose control in the morning.

Meal Plan

Your meal plan plays a vital role in whether you’ll experience a high in the morning or not. The fact is that evening carbs aren’t great in any way for diabetes, and this is especially so for morning highs. Hence, you should look for a way to cut it off your diet.

You can incorporate a better diet high in fiber and low in fat. Snacks aren’t advisable, but if you get to take them, they must be extremely low in fat and should not be eaten in the evening before sleeping.

There are certain good snack choices and food that you can add to your menu, and some of them are listed below:

  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Fat-free yogurt (or low-fat yogurt)
  • Fat-free popcorn
  • Low-fat granola
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Sugar-free frozen popsicle
  • Reduced-fat cheese and small apple
  • Turkey sandwich (half size)

Generally, it’s best if you eat your last meal at least three hours before sleeping to help reduce the effect of morning highs.

Exercise

Source: EndocrineWeb

Exercise is excellent for many things, and helping to control a morning high in blood sugar level is one of them. You must take exercise seriously if you suffer from consistent morning highs as physical activity increases insulin sensitivity which helps steady blood glucose levels.

Exercising in the afternoon can offer a lot of benefits. You get a hyped metabolism, and the effect can help keep blood sugar at a minimum, especially if you incorporate high-intensity interval training into your program.

Consult Your Doctor for The Right Diabetes Medications

While an adequate diabetes management plan significantly helps reduce diabetes, getting the best medication for controlling blood sugar high in the morning is much trickier. However, there are some things that you could do for positive effects concerning your blood sugar. Here are some of them:

  • Adjust your insulin pump to control morning highs.
  • Check your blood sugar before sleeping to know if the cause is the dawn phenomenon or your diet.
  • Take basal insulin.

Conclusion

Blood sugar level spikes in the morning is an event that people with diabetes experience occasionally or more frequently, depending on the effectiveness of their applied solutions. When it happens occasionally, the consequences are extremely low. However, in cases where it’s much more frequent, patients could experience an increased average blood sugar level.

Morning spikes hold as much consequence as any other form of diabetic spikes, and you should treat it as such. This article outlines many important steps to help people who experience morning highs effectively handle their condition and live better.

Also, using our Klinio app could go a long way in helping you manage your morning highs. It’s an excellent dietary app that helps determine the best food necessary for keeping your blood glucose levels at an optimal range in the early hours of the morning. It also offers no-equipment beginner workout ideas to ensure you get the best out of your exercise sessions, necessary for keeping morning highs at bay.

Written by

Braden G. Barnett, MD

Dr. Braden G. Barnett is an endocrinologist in Los Angeles, California and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Keck Medical Center of USC and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. He received his medical degree from University of Southern California and has been in practice around 8 years. A skilled professional, Dr. Barnett holds certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine with a special focus on endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism. He is also a recipient of several awards and honors.

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