If you are a diabetic like I am then you may know about the Dawn Phenomenon. Until I understood what this was all about, I would be completely frustrated every morning when I got up out of bed and tested my blood sugar level. It would always be much higher than it was when I went to bed. I couldn’t figure out why. How could I go to bed with a level of 105mg/dL and get up in the morning with a level of 135mg/dL? It made no sense. I wasn’t sleep walking and raiding the fridge during the night. Well, welcome to what is called, the Dawn Phenomenon.
No matter whether you suffer with diabetes or not, everyone experiences the Dawn Phenomenon. What happens is that while we are comfortably asleep, during the hours of 3:00 – 8:00 AM, our bodies release certain hormones that help repair and maintain our bodies. This is completely normal. In response to these hormones being released, our bodies will also release stored glucose.
The hormones that are released include Growth Hormone from the pituitary gland, Cortisol, Glucagon and Epinephrine, or adrenalin as it is commonly known as. These hormones cause an increase in insulin resistance, which in turn causes your glucose level to rise.
Since these hormones are repairing and doing maintenance work during the late night/early morning hours, this causes your glucose level to rise during the morning hours. So, you test your blood sugar level first thing and notice a much higher reading. This is why they call this the Dawn Phenomenon.
What can you do to prevent the Dawn Phenomenon? There are a couple of things you can do to help keep high blood glucose levels down in the morning. If you are eating too many carbs later in the evening, try to cut back. Eat a snack like peanut butter, or a piece of deli meat and cheese. Another thing you can do is exercise in the evening. 30-45 minutes of brisk walking or cycling will go a long way in keeping your blood sugar levels lower throughout the night.
You might also want to try and eat no food after you’re evening dinner. Many times this will work due to your bedtime reading being greatly reduced and offsetting the Dawn Phenomenon rise during the night. If this doesn’t work for you, talk to your doctor and see if they will make some changes in your medication.
Finally, be sure to eat breakfast. This is so important. The increase in blood glucose after eating will often ‘shut off’ the continued rise because your body begins to sense an increase in fuel coming in so to speak. By not eating breakfast your blood sugar can continue to rise up until 11:00 or 12:00.
It is important for people who suffer from diabetes to constantly track their blood glucose levels. You may want to even get up and take a reading during the late night hours around 4:00 AM. Track your levels and make the proper adjustments. Now that you know what is going on, and why your levels can be so crazy, you can better deal with the Dawn Phenomenon.