The normal, natural rise in blood sugar that occurs in early morning hours, between roughly 4 and 8 am is called as the dawn phenomenon. Blood sugar levels change as a result of hormonal changes in the body.
All people experience this phenomenon to one level or another and it can vary day by day. People without diabetes may never notice it happening, as a normal body’s insulin response adjusts for rise without intervention.
How does it affect people with diabetes?
Dawn phenomenon is a normal rise in blood sugar released by the liver. The release happens as the person’s body is preparing to wake for the day.
These effects can include:
- feeling tired
- extreme thirst
Managing the dawn phenomenon
In the case of dawn phenomenon, there are some additional changes that may help prevent issues caused by the spike in blood sugar.
Some steps people with diabetes can take to manage the dawn phenomenon include:
- changing medication entirely or making adjustments with a doctor on existing medication
- avoiding skipping meals or medication doses
- avoiding carbohydrates around bedtime
- taking medication closer to bedtime and not at dinner time
Other steps include eating dinner earlier in the evening. After dinner, some light physical activity, such as going for a walk, jogging, or yoga, is encouraged.
It is likely that a person with diabetes will experience high morning blood sugar levels from time to time. Occasional, mild issues from dawn phenomenon are not too worrisome. However, if the frequency becomes much more regular, then it’s time to call a doctor.
If blood sugar levels spike too high as a result of dawn phenomenon, the effects can range from mild to a life-threatening medical emergency.
Some complications that a person with diabetes may experience as a result of dawn phenomenon include:
- nerve damage
- damage to blood vessels
- organ damage
- ketoacidosis, an extremely dangerous buildup of acid in the bloodstream
People who experience repeated high blood sugar levels due to dawn phenomenon should see a doctor to prevent these consequences.
Differences in dealing with dawn phenomenon depends more on the individual person than what type of diabetes they have or what their treatment plan is.
A person with type 1 diabetes may adjust the dosage or type of insulin to account for any changes overnight. In other cases where the person wears an insulin pump, they may adjust the pump to deliver extra insulin in the morning.
What is the Somogyi effect?
This person’s body then responds to the low blood sugar levels by releasing hormones that trigger sugar levels to go back up. This may cause blood sugar levels to be higher than normal in the morning.
How can you tell the difference?
The major difference between dawn phenomenon and the Somogyi effect is that the latter can occur any time there is extra insulin in the body.
The easiest way to rule out the Somogyi effect is to check blood sugar levels at bedtime, around 2 to 3 a.m., and after waking up for several nights and mornings.
Here are two possible results and what they might mean:
If the blood sugar level is low at or between 2 to 3 a.m., there is a good likelihood the Somogyi effect is the cause.
If the blood sugar level is normal or high at or between 2 to 3 a.m., it is more likely that the cause is the dawn phenomenon.
Treatments, home remedies, and prevention
The best treatment is prevention. Treatment for the dawn phenomenon is likely to be the same type that they would use to treat a spike in blood sugar.
Source: Medical News Today