When you go to bed, your blood sugar reading is 6 mmol/L, but when you wake up in the morning, it has shot up to 15 mmol/L. Why does this happen?

To better understand this phenomenon, it is important to know the role of insulin in our bodies. So, what is insulin and what does it do? Insulin is a hormone that lowers blood sugar by moving glucose from your blood into cells all over your body.

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.

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. Insulin works as the messenger to tell the liver how much glucose should be released, so blood sugar levels remain constant.


A rise in blood sugar levels between approximately 3 a.m. and the time you wake up is called the “dawn phenomenon.” 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 you have diabetes, the liver starts to release glucose much too quickly. The result? Blood sugar levels going up without eating. To learn more about blood sugar levels, click here.


Step 1: Be informed

Keep a detailed record of what's happening in the evening and in the morning to know why you may be experiencing fluctuation in your blood sugar, including:

  • Medications or insulin: Take note of dosage and timing of your medications.
  • Physical activity: Exercise has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and could help you manage your morning highs. To learn more about the benefits of exercise on your blood sugar level, click here.
  • Eating habits: Keep a food journal to track what and when you are eating.
  • Blood sugar: Monitoring your blood sugar regularly helps track blood sugar trends. Not a fan of finger pricks? Digital monitors such as FreeStyle Libre systems offer continuous glucose monitoring through a sensor! Just apply a sensor to your arm and wear it for up to 14 days. Get real-time glucose readings sent directly to your smartphone. Ask your doctor for more details about FreeStyle Libre systems.

Step 2: Get support

  • Talk to your health care provider or diabetes educator about changes you can make to prevent the dawn phenomenon. Solutions to controlling morning blood sugar levels will look different for each person.
  • Nutrition counselling with a registered dietitian can be helpful as they can create a meal plan that works best for you. For recipe and meal planning ideas, click here. Short on time? Grab a bottle of Glucerna®. Glucerna® nutritional drink has a low glycemic index and a special blend of carbohydrates which may trigger a smaller spike in blood sugar.
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