Type 1 Diabetes Management | The Dawn Phenomenon

type 1 diabetes

In my effort to fix my morning blood sugar numbers, I did an experiment testing my blood sugar in the middle of the night, 2:30am to be exact. I wanted to see if my blood sugar decreases from my pre-bed reading which usually involves a recent snack. My hope was that my blood sugar goes down overnight then sometime before I wake up, it rises. Stated another way, I hope my blood sugar level does not stay elevated all night. If it does, that’s a problem.

There is a physiological situation called the dawn phenomenon. This is something everyone’s body does. It’s a hormone dump into your system to prepare your body to wake up and go for the day (VERY summarized, read up on it!). A non-diabetic’s pancreas will adjust the insulin need in the body to correct for this additional sugar in the bloodstream, resulting in no or little change to the body’s blood sugar level. An insulin-dependent diabetic may not have anything to cover this surge, or as in my case, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to manage the surge.

For an insulin-dependent type 1 diabetic, adjustments to quantity and timing of insulin doses needs to occur or when carbohydrates are eaten. For me, well, I’m going to try to figure this out without starting to take insulin because that is how I roll!

The way to know if you are experiencing a dawn phenomenon is to test your blood glucose in the middle of the night (2am-3am) a couple nights in a row. If those readings are normal, then you can assume the reason for high blood glucose in the morning is the dawn effect which is short-lived and likely harmless.

Remember to hold everything else constant while trying these tests! Bedtime, diet, rise-time, alcohol consumption, etc. everything needs to stay the same.

Since I have been struggling with my morning blood glucose numbers, I did a 4 night test to see if I have the dawn phenomenon.

Day 1

Pre-Bed BG (10pm): 147

Mid-Sleep BG (2:30am): 136

Fasting BG (6am): 166

Day 2

Pre-Bed BG (10pm): 110 (Alcohol before bed. I broke my own rule!)

Mid-Sleep BG (2:30am): 128

Fasting BG (6am): 152

Day 3

Pre-Bed BG (10pm): 151

Mid-Sleep BG (2:30am): 128

Fasting BG (6am): 147

Day 4

Pre-Bed BG (10pm): 149

Mid-Sleep BG (2:30am): 132

Fasting BG (6am): 145

My 2:30am reading is pretty steady at 128-135. That makes me feel pretty good! I’ve never tested myself in the middle of the night since being off insulin, so I’m so happy that my pancreas is doing its job even when I’m sleeping.

I’ll be consulting with my endocrinologist soon, but to my eyes, the dawn phenomenon seems to be happening. My blood sugar goes down initially, but sometime after 2:30am it starts to rise. I will still be striving to make good food and lifestyle choices, but it looks to me that I can’t do anything about that morning number.

That sounds so defeatist as I type that! I’ve learned there usually IS something that can be done. When I learn more and fix it, I’ll update!

**Update: In between the time I wrote this post and actually publishing it, I DID figure something else out! As you may know, I am sensitive to dairy, so I have cut that completely out of my diet. When shopping for Thanksgiving, I picked up some chocolate covered fruit. I like to have filled candy dishes on my fireplace when guests are around. Don’t we all need sweets on holidays???

You know I bought them at Costco, so the bag was huge. We loved them. Who wouldn’t? So I bought another bag for our guests, I mean us, at Christmas.

Then a friend gave us a bunch of my most favorite candy: York peppermint patties. I only had 1 per day. Totally justified, right??

Both of those items have dairy in them. Sigh.

I stopped eating them, and in 3 days, my morning blood sugar was back in the 130’s in the morning. I’m still not below 130 first thing, but in the 130’s is so much better than 140-170!

Now I’m not sure I have the dawn phenomenon going on, or at least it is somewhat managed by my almost-dead pancreas. I decided to go ahead and publish this information just in case it helps other diabetics out there! Feel free to comment with any questions or shoot me an email!**

Any other health struggles you are experiencing that you have to use your body as a test lab? Does it defeat you or do you strive to defeat it? I bet you know which camp I’m in! The more I experiment with my body, the more I am amazed by the intricate, complex body God has made. Isn’t it amazing how it works or doesn’t work and what can fix it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.