I don’t understand why my blood sugar is so high when I wake up in the morning?
Help! My morning blood sugar is up again!
It’s 7:18 AM, and you’ve finally turned off your alarm after silencing it too many times. We all do it from time to time. You get out of bed, wander to the kitchen, and start the coffee pot. Then you check your blood sugar, and it’s too high! It’s so high that you are now second-guessing that sweet and yummy coffee creamer that’s sitting next to your mug.
You haven’t eaten anything in 10 hours, so what’s going on?! It seems so unfair! You aren’t alone in wondering about this.
This problem became clear to many of us as soon as the Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) hit the shelves. Before we had access to CGMs, we had no way to know without poking our fingers and testing with strips in a meter all day long.
Using CGMs we can see in real-time what our blood sugar is doing throughout the day. You will be surprised at which foods spike your blood sugar. If you haven’t yet, ask your doctor about getting a CGM.
Why does high morning blood sugar happen?
Lots of things can go wrong in the human body (like Type 2 diabetes). Our bodies function like an engine. If the engine runs perfectly we don’t have to worry about it. Just give it the right fuel and off it goes!
Type 2 diabetes makes our engine inefficient at using fuel/sugars. We have the equivalent of excess fuel, which in our bodies is the high sugar circulating in our bloodstream. That excess fuel has to then be stored somewhere. It gets stored in fat, often belly fat.
But sometimes this design can cause issues. Diseases are issues that cause things to work in ways they were not intended to. High blood sugar in the morning is an example of that.
Have you heard of:
These are the three main causes of high morning blood sugar.
We’re going to tell you about each of these three.
But before we get too far into that, let’s take a second to talk about how our body holds onto glucose, aka sugar.
The Role of Sugar Storage in the Human Body
Humans who lived thousands of years ago didn’t always have enough food. There were periods of time when food was scarce. These were sometimes long periods of scarcity.
Because of this, our bodies needed a way to access sugar when eating wasn’t an option. And that is where a thing called “sugar stores” came in. These are little pockets of sugar that our cells keep stored for when we need extra fuel.
In modern times, these sugar stores get used throughout the day at certain key moments. This may happen when our blood sugar is low or we may need an energy boost. Let’s imagine that it’s like when you’re hiking in the woods and a bear starts chasing you. I really hope a bear never chases you through the woods! But imagine that you suddenly needed to run really fast. The sugar stores in your body would normally be used to help you get away, in this case from the pretend bear.
The Dawn Phenomenon
One example of how our bodies use these sugar stores is the Dawn Phenomenon1. When this happens, our body senses that it’s almost time to wake up and it releases some extra sugar to get us going.
This happens between the hours of 2 and 8 AM. This extra sugar should provide us with a boost of energy for when we start our day. Most people would never notice this release because they make enough insulin. When you make enough insulin your cells absorb this burst of sugar immediately.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for diabetics, including Type 2 Diabetics.
When a person has diabetes we don’t respond to this burst of sugar correctly. Our body responds like any other time that it gets too much sugar to process.
This means that sugar released into the blood doesn’t benefit from the help of insulin and can’t enter the cells.
Excess sugar stays in the blood until the kidneys can process it. We can also take medication or go for a walk to counteract this.
Read more here about what your blood sugar should be in the morning and why it is so high for some people.
Next up is something called waning insulin2. This is for people who use insulin. This one is pretty simple. Your last dose of insulin wore off before the morning blood sugar burst happened. The timing behind waning insulin can be a bit more complicated. This is because insulin levels depend on the type of insulin a patient takes.
With longer-acting insulin medications, one dose first thing in the morning may help. And sometimes, that dose may start to wear off before that 24-hour mark. People on short-acting insulin may take a dose right before bed. This means their dose usually wears off in the early morning.
Intermediate-acting insulin may help with early morning high blood sugar levels. This allows you to take two doses a day while ensuring you’re covered all day and overnight.
The Somogyi Effect
The Somogyi Effect3 occurs when a person taking insulin experiences low blood sugar overnight. This can happen for one reason or another. Usually, the body tries to make up for this by releasing extra sugar, kind of like it does with the Dawn Phenomenon.
There are a few reasons why your blood sugar may dip while sleeping. These include taking the last insulin too early in the evening instead of before bed and not monitoring your blood sugar levels. It also includes sleeping for an extra-long period, or even taking too much insulin before bed. To avoid this problem, patients should eat enough food and take the right dose of medication.
The Role of Hormones
Another factor that can make this process more complicated is hormones.
Science has shown that overnight our bodies release something called “counter-regulatory hormones.4” These can include growth hormones, stress hormones, or the blood sugar-increasing hormone glucagon. These hormones can make it even harder for cells to take in sugar. This means blood sugar levels increase.
High morning blood sugar numbers can be scary! It’s important to understand what is causing these numbers. Then you can take power in managing your diabetes. If you notice these high blood sugars are becoming common, consider a ketogenic diet. You may also want to talk to your doctor to discuss your options.
You can join our free group here, and get some excellent dietary recommendations that may just reverse your Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis!
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