Dawn Phenomenon : Causes, Symptoms & Treatment - Sugar.Fit
Metabolic Health

What is Dawn Phenomenon

The dawn phenomenon, or dawn effect, is when there is an abnormal increase in your early-morning blood sugar (glucose) levels (between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m.), usually seen in people with diabetes. If you are wondering whether all people with diabetes have the dawn phenomenon, then the answer is yes. As your body prepares for the day, blood sugar levels usually rise in the morning. To cope with this increased blood sugar, insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels) is used. The dawn phenomenon occurs in diabetics as there is insufficient insulin, which leads to abnormally high blood sugar levels in the early morning hours as the body is unable to cope with this increase. This article will delve deeper into the causes, symptoms, complications, treatment, home remedies, and prevention of the dawn phenomenon.

Dawn Phenomenon : Causes and Symptoms

The dawn phenomenon, or rather an increase in blood sugar in the early morning hours, occurs in all individuals due to certain hormones that trigger an increase in the release of glucose into the blood to provide the body with energy for the rest of the day. So, do individuals with type 2 diabetes experience the dawn phenomenon? Yes. In individuals with diabetes, the dawn phenomenon is amplified due to insulin resistance and lack of insulin. Other causes of the dawn phenomenon in diabetes are as follows.

  • Taking an inadequate night dose of insulin.
  • Forgetting to take your diabetes medication in the evening.
  • Eating excess carbohydrates for dinner.

The main symptom of the dawn phenomenon is increased early morning blood sugar levels that become persistent and difficult to manage. Though you may not necessarily experience physical symptoms of the dawn phenomenon, some of them to look out for are as follows:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea

Is the Dawn Phenomenon Dangerous?

If you have wondered what causes the dawn effect in diabetics, the answer is the lack of insulin to tackle the early morning rise in blood glucose levels. But how dangerous is the dawn phenomenon for individuals with diabetes? Research shows that the dawn phenomenon increases the A1C levels (the average blood sugar levels over three months) in individuals with type 2 diabetes. An increase in A1C levels leads to increased diabetes complications like kidney and heart disease. Even a 1% increase in A1C levels can result in a 15% to 20% increase in the likelihood of developing heart complications. Therefore, since it is seen that even small increases in blood sugar levels can cause complications and detrimentally affect your health, treating the dawn phenomenon is vital.

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How to Manage the Dawn Phenomenon?

How do you stop the dawn phenomenon? The mainstay of diabetes management is a combination of exercise, diet, medication, and strict monitoring of blood sugar levels. However, for the dawn phenomenon, following the below-mentioned tips can help people effectively manage the symptoms and prevent complications.

  • Eat regular meals.
  • Take all your medication doses.
  • Adjust your nighttime doses closer to bedtime rather than immediately after dinner.
  • Avoid excessive consumption of carbohydrates towards bedtime.
  • Eating dinner at an early hour.
  • Engaging in some light activity after dinner like yoga, going for a walk, or jogging.
  • Consult with your doctor to change or adjust your medication.

Complications of the Dawn Phenomenon

The dawn phenomenon results in sustained, increased levels of blood sugar, which are detrimental to your health. If left untreated, it can potentially lead to a life-threatening medical emergency. Other complications of the dawn phenomenon due to increased blood sugar levels are as follows:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis-an increased buildup of acid in the blood.
  • Loss of consciousness (diabetic coma).
  • Heart issues like a heart attack or stroke.
  • Vision loss
  • Nerve damage
  • Organ damage

To prevent these complications, you will need to seek advice from your doctor. Metformin, an oral diabetic medication usually prescribed for type-2 diabetes, is known to help with the dawn phenomenon as it slows down the release of glucose from the liver.

How to treat the Dawn Phenomenon?

To treat the dawn phenomenon, the following steps can help:

  • Get a good night’s sleep of at least 6-8 hours every night. Less than 6 hours of sleep can lead to increased blood sugar levels.
  • Reduce your carbohydrate intake, especially evening carbohydrates.
  • Skip late-night snacking or choose protein or fat-based snacks instead of carbohydrate-based ones.
  • Perform light exercises in the evening to help maintain an optimal morning level of blood sugar.
  • Eat a low-carbohydrate rich breakfast even if your blood sugar is high to help your blood sugar return to normal.
  • Tests are regularly performed to identify your normal fasting blood sugar levels and any fluctuations throughout the day.

Home Remedies and Prevention

The following home remedies or lifestyle changes can help reduce early morning blood sugar levels:

  • Increase your evening activity after dinner.
  • Increase more proteins or fats in your diet and reduce carbohydrates.
  • Do not delay breakfast even if your blood sugar is high, as it can help shut down the dawn phenomenon process and reduce your blood sugar levels.
  • Drink a large glass of water when you wake up (as suggested by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)) to reduce your blood sugar levels.
  • The NIDDK also recommends informing your doctor if you have repeated high blood sugar more than two to three times a week.
  • Remember to consult with your doctor before trying any home remedies, alternative treatments, or stopping any medications.

Read more about what level of blood sugar is dangerous

Bottomline

The dawn phenomenon is a term used when your blood sugar levels rise to an abnormally high level on waking up. In individuals with diabetes, due to the lack of insulin, it becomes difficult  to combat these increased blood sugar levels. Several preventive measures can prevent this from becoming a regular occurrence. As the dawn phenomenon can be dangerous to individuals with diabetes, you need to consult your doctor and take the necessary steps to manage, treat, and prevent it.

Reference Links

References

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/dawn-phenomenon

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