WHAT CAN I DO?

The dawn phenomenon

When you go to bed, your blood glucose reading is
7 mmol/L, but when you wake up in the morning, it has shot up to 9 mmol/L. Why does this happen? Learn about the dawn phenomenon and how you can manage it.

What is the dawn phenomenon?

An abnormally high early morning increase in blood glucose levels is called the ‘dawn phenomenon’.1 To understand how blood glucose levels can rise overnight without you eating anything, we have to look at where glucose comes from, and where it goes, while we sleep.

During the day, the carbohydrates we eat are digested into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. Some of this glucose goes to the liver, where it is stored for later use.2 At night, while we are asleep, the liver releases glucose into the bloodstream. The liver acts as our glucose warehouse and keeps us supplied until we eat breakfast.

The liver is supposed to release just enough glucose to replace what is being used, and insulin works as the messenger to tell the liver how much is enough. But if there’s not enough insulin (as with type 1 diabetes), or if the body isn’t responding properly to the insulin (as with type 2 diabetes), the liver starts to release glucose much too quickly.

In addition, levels of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline begin to increase in the early morning hours, which can contribute to the liver releasing more glucose.1 The result? Blood glucose levels rise. This is why blood glucose levels can go up between the time you go to bed and the time you wake up.

What can you do about it?

You might be able to make changes in the timing of your meals, medications, or insulin injections to help prevent the dawn phenomenon.1

First, keep a detailed record of what’s happening in the evening and in the morning, including your blood glucose levels, eating habits, medications or insulin, and physical activity. Then, speak with your healthcare professional about changes you can make to lower your chances of experiencing the dawn phenomenon.

Glucerna health shakes have CARBSTEADY®, which includes slow-to-digest carbohydrates formulated to help minimise blood glucose spikes.3,4 If you experience the dawn phenomenon, Glucerna may be able to help, as part of a diabetes management plan. Speak to your healthcare professional and try one today!

References

  1. Diabetes.co.uk. Dawn Phenomenon. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/blood-glucose/dawn-phenomenon.html. Accessed 28 October 2018.
  2. Better health Channel. Diabetes. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/diabetes. Accessed 28 October 2018.
  3. Devitt A et al. J Diabetes Res Clin Metab 2012;1(20):2.
  4. Abbott Nutrition. Data on File.