The Diabetes Dawn Phenomenon: Why It Happens, What To Do

How frustrating to wake up in the morning with elevated blood sugar when all you did was dream about eating a piece of cheesecake. A seemingly spontaneous rise in blood glucose during the early morning hours experienced by many people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes is called the dawn phenomenon, or dawn effect. The dawn phenomenon is actually the body’s response to an aspect of its own natural rhythms.

Why It Happens

The human body, with its wired-in wisdom, releases hormones such as cortisol, catecholamines, and growth hormone during the early morning hours. These hormones help maintain and restore the body’s cells, and they trigger the liver to release glucose. The rising glucose is meant to be regulated by circulating insulin.

Many people with diabetes do not have enough circulating insulin during predawn hours to regulate this end-of-night surge in blood sugar, so they are greeted on waking by the rising sun and an elevated morning glucose reading.

What to Do About It

A recent research study suggests that taking basal insulin in the evening is the only effective solution to the dawn phenomenon. However, if you are not currently taking insulin, consult with your doctor, and consider trying one of these possible dawn effect solutions:

  • Exercise late in the day. Being active closer to bedtime may lower your blood sugar while you sleep.
  • Adjust your medication(s). Talk to your physician about tweaking your medication(s) to counter the higher morning readings.
  • Eat breakfast. When you eat breakfast, your body will tell the predawn glucose-stimulating hormones to give it a rest.
  • Limit late-night carbs. In the evening, snack on items that have high protein and fat content such as peanut butter, meat, cheese, or nuts. These foods digest more slowly than carbohydrates, keeping glucose levels steadier.

Evidence for Evening Insulin?

The result of one research study does not prove anything, but it suggests something that may prove true.

Researchers at the Université Montpellier in France studied the dawn phenomenon in people with type 2 diabetes being treated with diet alone or with non-insulin medications.

The 248 study participants were examined for 48 hours using continuous glucose monitoring; 50 percent of them experienced the dawn phenomenon. The investigators defined the dawn phenomenon as a greater than 20 mg/dL rise in blood sugar.

The researchers concluded that:

  1. The dawn phenomenon is already active in some individuals being treated for diabetes solely by diet; and diet does not regulate the phenomenon.
  2. The dawn effect is not effectively blunted with oral hypoglycemic agents such as metformin or sulfonylureas, even in combination.

“We are unable to control the dawn phenomenon with our current armamentarium of oral hypoglycemic agents, even though metformin is probably the one that has the highest potency for reducing [it],” said researcher Dr. Louis Monnier. “My position is that insulin should be considered for the treatment of type 2 diabetes as soon as the A1C becomes greater than 7 percent when patients are already treated with maximally tolerated doses of oral agents.”

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep calm, consult your doctor, and carry on. Stay informed and continue tweaking your diabetes management regimen to get results you and your professional team are satisfied with.

Sources: dLife, Medscape
Photo: Pixabay

Get A Free 7 Day Diabetes Meal Plan

Get a free 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan from Constance Brown-Riggs who is a Registered Dietitian-Certified Diabetes Educator and who is also a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Just enter in your email below to download your free Diabetes Meal Plan.

By clicking Submit, you agree to send your info to InformationAboutDiabetes.com who may contact you with updates and information and we agree to use it according to our privacy policy.

More Articles

Treatment of Diabetes Depends on if it Is Type 1 or Type 2

The treatment of Diabetes depends upon which type of Diabetes a person has....

Having elevated blood sugar can damage our body’s nerves over time.

Diabetic neuropathy is the generic term for all...

Modern fitness culture has popularized a wide range of high-intensity activities, from Crossfit and spin-class to marathon running and exercise...

Depression is a mood disorder that causes you to feel sadness and lose interest in activities that you once enjoyed. The symptoms of depression...

There have been numerous studies that have demonstrated the link between gut health and autoimmune diseases, immune system, mental health, mood,...

More Articles

Nerve damage affects about 50 percent of people with diabetes, according to the American Physiological Society. Numbness, tingling and pain in the...

Diabetes has no known cure, but there are many ways to control the disease and prevent the symptoms from interfering with daily life. One major...

There are a host of complications that come along with diabetes of either type. Among them are increased risks for amputation, cardiovascular...

There is no question that people with diabetes need a diabetes diet plans and...

The different sugar content of fruits can be confusing when you are trying to manage your blood glucose. For instance, a half cup of raspberries...

Oil pulling therapy derives from Ayurveda, a holistic healing system developed thousands of years ago in India. Ayurvedic medicine maintains that...

It’s only been recently that doctors, including endocrinologists, have realized the starring role gut microbes play in our health. The unique...

Well-controlled diabetes may depend on medication, but nutrition is perhaps the most important factor. There are many foods that can be added to...

Sleep apnea — a condition that causes shallow or obstructive breathing patterns — is an unpleasant disorder that often goes hand in hand with...

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes difficulty breathing, wheezing, cough, and mucus...

Certain dietary supplements may play a beneficial supporting role in the prevention and management of diabetic neuropathy. Frequently...

Evidence is mounting that consuming black cumin helps to manage type 2 diabetes. The spice lowered blood glucose levels and blocked AGE glycation...

Hot weather does not directly alter blood glucose levels. However, sweltering temperatures affect our metabolism and the release of hormones. Heat...

Diabetes can seem to have an almost limitless list of symptoms. Now headaches are added to the list. The ebb...

One way to ensure our body gets a variety of nutrients is eating nutrient-dense foods, and one of the most nutrient-dense foods on our planet is...