Certain hormonal changes in the body cause a natural fluctuation in blood sugar levels during the early hours of the morning. This spike is known as the dawn phenomenon, and is seen to generally happen between 4 am and 8 am.
To some degree, everyone is affected by the dawn phenomenon, although most people don't pay attention to it since their insulin reaction automatically makes the required changes. However, diabetes patients may not experience this. The person is more likely to suffer symptoms as well as a higher rise in blood glucose levels as a result.
Why does it happen?
Hormones are a major factor in the dawn phenomena, even if the precise underlying mechanisms are yet unknown. These hormones have a daily cycle, or a circadian rhythm, and they increase in the early morning, during our waking hours.
High levels of blood sugar in the mornings may also be caused by several other reasons, including:
- An inadequate amount of insulin the night before
- Not consuming the required amount of diabetes medicine the night before
- Having a carbohydrate-rich meal right before bedtime
What are symptoms of the dawn phenomenon?
If you are someone that suffers from diabetes, or blood sugar complications, your body may not produce the required amount of insulin to cope with the spike in blood sugar level, or your body may even be unable to use the insulin adequately. This leads to your blood sugar levels staying high even when you wake up in the morning.
It's also possible that the insulin you're using, if you use it as part of your diabetes treatment plan, won't be sufficient to control your blood sugar levels during the night. This can result in a number of problems such as faintness, blurry vision, weakness, disorientation, nausea, and extreme thirst.
If there are consistent spikes in blood sugar levels, or if there is a very sudden rise as a result of the dawn phenomenon, it may result in a medical emergency. High blood sugar levels can cause ketoacidosis, a potentially harmful accumulation of acid in the system.
Other long term effects of high-blood sugar include cardiovascular issues, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, and nerve damage with far-reaching effects, organ or eyesight damage
To avoid these effects, it is important to keep track of your blood sugar levels in the morning and if persistent, to get it checked by a medical professional.
What can you do about it?
Some typical home treatments or way of life adjustments that may lower the risk of morning blood sugar spikes include:
- Increasing the protein-carb ratio of snacks that you consume in the evening
- getting more exercise in the evening
- eating breakfast may prevent the release of hormones that contribute to diabetes, even if you may suffer from high blood sugar
- Get a good night’s sleep, averaging 6 to 8 hours. This can help to reduce cortisol and in turn, help to increase glucose tolerance.
If you do find that your blood sugar levels are high, here’s what you can immediately do
- Drink a large glass of water
- Take a quick walk
If you notice that your blood sugar is high in the mornings more than three times in two weeks, it is recommended to seek medical help from a professional.