1. Early Morning Hormones: As you sleep, while your body is fasting, your liver is the primary driver of your blood sugar levels. All night long, the liver releases sugar to provide the brain and nervous system with energy.
In the early hours of the morning, a series of hormones that boost energy and alertness send additional sugar into the blood to ready you for a new day. This rise from hormones is called the dawn phenomenon. But people with insulin resistance or too little insulin (or both) may have trouble dealing with this sugar surge, leading to high morning blood sugar levels.
Possible Solutions: Consider your medications. If you take insulin, you may need additional basal insulin during the night to keep sugar stored in the liver when it’s not needed elsewhere.
2. A Missed Workout: Being physically active boosts insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to use insulin more efficiently for up to 48 hours post-workout. And when you exercise regularly, your body naturally stays more sensitive to insulin. But if you miss your regular workout, you might see a jump in your usual blood sugar levels. This can happen in the morning (but could also happen at any time of day).
Possible Solutions: Find an exercise routine that you like and can stick to. To avoid missed days, planning ahead can help: Take a look at the week ahead to anticipate when you might miss a workout, and how you can still fit one in. Even carving out a few minutes to be active may help prevent you from waking up to high numbers.
3. Delayed Effects of Fatty Foods: Blood sugar levels typically peak within an hour or so after eating. However, a high-fat dinner containing fried foods, pizza, or cheesy casseroles might delay this normal jump in blood sugar until the morning. Why? Large amounts of dietary fat can make it harder for insulin to do its job. Plus, fat slows down digestion and absorption, which could cause blood sugar to peak later than usual.
Possible Solutions: Opt for fish, skinless poultry, beans, and vegetables sautéed in olive oil over foods high in saturated fat like fried foods and those covered in cheese. Filling up half your plate with vegetables can also help cut portion sizes of other foods—and your fat intake from those foods.
4. Night Time Hypoglycemia: If your blood sugar drops too low during the night, your body might crank out hormones like adrenaline to counter that response. This rebound is called the Somogyi effect. It causes the liver to release more stored sugar that raises blood glucose.
Possible Solutions: Monitor your blood sugar several times during the night—ideally using a continuous glucose monitor—to help identify if and when you experience hypoglycemia. And be alert for common symptoms of night-time lows: sweating, nightmares, and waking up with a headache.