Why Is My Blood Sugar High in the Morning? Causes and Treatment Tips

Why Is My Blood Sugar High in the Morning? Causes and Treatment Tips

Ever wondered, “Why is my blood sugar high in the morning?” This is a typical question among people who constantly monitor their blood sugar levels. Through this guide, we want to decipher this riddle and provide you with knowledge to assist you manage and maybe decrease high morning blood sugar levels.

Normal Blood Sugar Range

The typical range for blood sugar (glucose) varies throughout the day. Blood sugar levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Fasting Blood Sugar

For persons without diabetes, normal fasting blood sugar ranges from 70 to 99 mg/dL when checked first thing in the morning before eating or drinking. This is also known as your “fasting baseline” blood sugar.

Fasting blood sugar is normally measured after at least 8 hours without eating or drinking anything other than water. Fasting blood sugar tests entails taking blood from an arm vein and testing it.

Post-Meal Blood Sugar

Normal blood sugar levels after a day of eating are less than 140 mg/dL. Levels ranging from 140 to 199 mg/dL suggest prediabetes. Diabetes is defined as a blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or above.

Non-fasting blood sugar levels can be measured at any time after eating. Instead of extracting blood from a vein, a finger stick blood sample is collected from the fingertip.

Key Differences

  • Fasting blood sugar is tested first thing in the morning before eating, while non-fasting blood sugar is tested after meals or throughout the day.
  • Fasting blood sugar requires a blood draw from a vein and reflects baseline blood sugar levels, while a finger stick capillary blood sample is used for non-fasting blood sugar testing.
  • Normal fasting blood sugar is lower (70-99 mg/dL) compared to up to 140 mg/dL after meals.

What Causes of High Morning Blood Sugar?

If you’ve been struggling with high blood sugar in the morning, several variables might be at play.

Dawn Phenomenon

The Dawn Phenomenon is the natural increase in hormones including cortisol, glucagon, and adrenaline that happens in the early morning hours. These hormones promote glucose synthesis, which may result in higher morning blood sugar levels.

Somogyi Effect

The Somogyi Effect, also known as “rebound hyperglycemia,” happens when blood sugar levels decrease significantly overnight and the body overcorrects by producing more glucose, resulting in high blood sugar in the morning.

Inadequate Insulin or Oral diabetic Medication

Changes in the time, type, or amount of insulin or oral diabetic medication might result in variable blood glucose levels.

Lifestyle Factors

Elevated carbohydrate nighttime snacks, irregular meal timings, and a lack of physical exercise can all contribute to elevated morning blood sugar.

Effects of High Morning Blood Sugar

Consistently high blood sugar levels in the morning might have a variety of health consequences if not managed. Some of the primary effects are:

  • Increased diabetes risk – Morning highs that continue daily over weeks and months can indicate insulin resistance or prediabetes. Without treatment, high morning blood sugar is likely to lead to type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight gain – Excess blood sugar gets stored as fat. Morning highs after meals contribute to overall excess blood sugar and fat storage over time.
  • Fatigue – High blood sugar disrupts sleep and causes fluid loss, leading to dehydration and fatigue. Morning highs prevent the restorative sleep needed to restore energy.
  • Blurred vision – Uncontrolled diabetes that allows prolonged high blood sugar can cause fluid accumulation in the lenses of the eyes, leading to swelling, distortion of shape, and blurred vision.
  • Impaired wound healing – High blood sugar prevents white blood cells that repair wounds and prevent infection from functioning properly. Cuts and sores heal slowly and have a greater risk of becoming infected.
  • Cardiovascular disease – Morning blood sugar spikes combined with insulin resistance create inflammation. This damages blood vessels and contributes to atherosclerotic plaque buildup, heart attack, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.

How to Lower Morning Blood Sugar

Making certain lifestyle changes might help reduce elevated blood sugar levels in the morning. Here are some of the most beneficial lifestyle modifications you can implement:

Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity can help prevent morning blood sugar rises. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity and allows insulin to act more efficiently in delivering glucose to cells for energy. 

Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of strenuous exercise per week. Going for a 30-minute stroll after supper might be very useful.

Follow a Low Glycemic Diet

Choosing foods that do not cause blood sugar spikes can help to keep blood glucose levels stable. Consume complete, unprocessed foods such as nonstarchy veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats, legumes, and minimally processed grains. 

Avoid sugary and refined carbs, such as white bread, pastries, drinks, and sweets.

Lose Weight if Overweight

Excess weight increases insulin resistance, making it difficult for insulin to reduce blood sugar levels after meals. Losing 5-10% of your body weight can assist with insulin sensitivity and morning blood sugar readings. Work on reducing calories and boosting exercise.

Limit Carbohydrates at Night

Eating a lot of carbs in the evening might cause increased blood sugar in the morning. Limit carbs for supper and avoid late-night munching. Get the majority of your carbohydrates from fruits, veggies, and whole grains early in the day.

Manage Stress

High stress chemicals, such as cortisol, can boost blood sugar levels. Make time for soothing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to reduce stress levels. This can have a good influence on your morning blood sugar.

Get Enough Sleep

Inadequate sleep alters glucose-regulating hormones, contributing to elevated morning blood sugar. To keep blood sugar levels stable, aim for 7-9 hours of decent sleep every night.

Making lifestyle adjustments in nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and weight can all assist to lower morning blood glucose levels. Work on adopting healthy behaviors that will reduce blood sugar rises.

Medical Treatment

There are several medications that can help lower high blood sugar levels in the morning:

Metformin

  • Metformin is typically the first medication prescribed for type 2 diabetes. It works by reducing glucose production in the liver and improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
  • Taking metformin can help lower both fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels. The extended release version of metformin is usually taken at bedtime to have the greatest effect on morning blood glucose.
  • Metformin does not cause hypoglycemia. Common side effects include digestive issues like diarrhea and nausea.

Sulfonylureas

  • Sulfonylureas are oral medications that increase insulin secretion from the pancreas. Examples include glipizide and glyburide.
  • They lower blood sugar by stimulating the beta cells in the pancreas to release more insulin. This helps reduce fasting and post-meal glucose levels.
  • Sulfonylureas carry a higher risk of hypoglycemia compared to other diabetes medications. Low blood sugar is a common side effect.

Insulin

  • Injectable insulin may be prescribed along with oral medications or by itself for type 2 diabetes when blood sugars are very high.
  • Long-acting insulins like glargine and detemir can help lower morning fasting blood sugars when taken at bedtime.
  • Insulin helps lower blood glucose by directly providing the insulin the body needs. This improves both fasting and after-meal blood sugars.
  • Low blood sugar is the most common side effect. Weight gain can also occur with insulin use.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough fluids is key for blood sugar control. Being even mildly dehydrated can cause blood sugar spikes. Aim for 6-8 glasses of water daily. Limit sugary drinks like juice and soda.

Take a walk after meals

A brief 10-15 minute walk after eating can help lower blood sugar spikes from meals. Regular exercise makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.

Making a few easy lifestyle changes will help you better manage your morning blood sugar. Consult your doctor for extra diet and exercise suggestions.

Conclusion

While having persistently high blood sugar in the morning might be concerning, recognizing probable causes and taking proactive actions can help you control and improve your blood glucose levels. Always talk with a healthcare expert to create a complete treatment plan that is right for you. 

Remember that maintaining morning blood sugar levels includes not just looking at your numbers, but also prioritizing a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, physical activity, and consistent sleep patterns, as well as avoiding stress.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430893/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551525/

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to read this article on Can Diabetes Cause Hair Loss? Here’s What You Should Know.

*This information is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical or dietary advice tailored to individual needs.

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Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Kimberly Langdon

Dr. Kimberly Langdon has been an MD for 31 years, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place accolades for her Senior Research Project and Score of 98th percentile on a National Proficiency Test.

During her clinical career, she delivered over 2000 babies and specialized in minimally invasive procedures, menopause, endometriosis, menstrual disorders, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. After retiring from clinical practice, she founded a medical device company to commercialize her two patented and four patent-pending medical devices for both life-threatening and non-life-threatening infections.

Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Coologics, 2010-present
https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberly-langdon-m-d-41847610/
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine 1987-1991
The Ohio State University Hospital Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program 1991-1995
Private practice 1995-2010

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., received his medical doctorate from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. During his medical school training, Dr. Hsu worked with various patients, including adult and pediatric patients with acute and chronic conditions. Dr. Hsu’s interests include neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and sleep medicine.

Before medical school, Dr. Hsu finished a master’s degree at Harvard University and wrote a thesis on neuroimaging in schizophrenia patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital. Dr. Hsu was also a part of the 2008 NASA Phoenix Lander Mission team, which sent a robotic spacecraft to the North polar region of Mars. Dr. Hsu also had research experience on neuroimaging in neonates at Boston Children’s Hospital, another Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hospital.

Since graduating from medical school, Dr. Hsu has worked as a full-time medical writer and consultant. In addition, he has experience writing and ghostwriting books and articles for physicians and health technology start-up companies. Dr. Hsu believes good communication between healthcare providers and patients creates the best results.

Publications

-Peer Reviewed Journal Article:
Kounaves, S.P., Hecht, M.H., West, S.J., Morookian, J.-M., Young, S.M.M., Quinn, R., Grunthaner, P., Wen, X., Weilert, M., Cable, C.A., Fisher, A., Gospodinova, K., Kapit, J., Stroble, S., Hsu, P.-C., Clark, B.C., Ming, D.W. and Smith, P.H. The MECA wet chemistry laboratory on the 2007 phoenix mars scout Lander. Journal of Geophysical Research. 2009, Mar; 114(E3): 10.1029/2008je003084.

-Poster Presentation:
2011 Harvard Psychiatry Mysell Poster Session; Boston, MA
Hsu, P.C., Rathi, Y., Eckbo, R., Nestor, P., Niznikiewicz, M., Thompson, E., Kubicki, M., Shenton, M.E. (March, 2011). Two-Tensor Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Acoustic Radiations in Schizophrenia

Dr. Nicolette Natale

Nicolette Natale

Dr. Nicolette Natale is a physician, with a background in Psychology, General Medicine, and English Literature, combining her expertise to provide readers with the most accurate, easy-to-understand, and comprehensive information regarding healthcare. She received her Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine from Nova Southeastern University, and her bachelor’s in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Miami. Dr. Natale seeks to empower individuals with knowledge, fostering a greater understanding of holistic health and encouraging a proactive approach to well-being