The Dawn Phenomenon (Explained)

By MAYS Latest Reply 2011-07-19 11:33:24 -0500
Started 2010-06-28 06:46:27 -0500

The dawn phenomenon is a natural rise in blood glucose between the hours of 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., and it occurs because of hormonal changes in the body.

In the early morning hours, hormonal changes in your body will naturally cause blood glucose to rise. For people who don't have diabetes, the increase in blood glucose is offset by increased insulin production. For people with diabetes, this can be a problem.

There are a couple of things going on that make your glucose rise in the morning.

One of these is insulin resistance—a condition that means your body's muscle and fat cells are unable to use insulin effectively to lower blood glucose.
However, insulin resistance also affects how your liver processes, stores, and releases sugar, particularly at night.

The liver is supposed to release small amounts of glucose when you're not eating. But in type 2 diabetes, the liver dumps more glucose than is needed into the bloodstream, especially at night.

So, while your hormones are causing a natural rise in blood glucose, your liver is releasing even more sugar into your system. And because your insulin resistance prevents your muscle and fat cells from using the sugar, your blood glucose level rises.


8 replies

lab54 2011-07-19 11:33:24 -0500 Report

Thanks for this post. I was taking mine at 6 AM and they were always to high. Today I took it at 9am and it was just great. This has been so helpful.

Grandma Val
Grandma Val 2011-07-19 10:45:56 -0500 Report

Thanks for the article, I had often wondered why my blood sugar was higher in the morning than when I went to bed. I guess eating is not the only way your sugar is effected. I am learning many new things on this site and knowledge is power to deal with diabetes.

monkeymama 2010-06-28 18:17:23 -0500 Report

I have this problem with me right now. My new Endo confirmed it by doing a 3 day CGM to see what was going on through the day. We made an adjustment to my insulin pump for this problem and almost have it down. It's a pain in my butt and wonder if some of my increased issues is because of these liver issues I have now (diagnosed in May of 2009). Great post!

bettymachete 2010-06-28 09:15:15 -0500 Report

Yup. That is why it is so important for those who are Insulin resistant to be very mindful of protecting their organs. I am, Native, had gestational diabetes and have a family history of diabetes, both types. I am insulin resistant.

I found this a helpful addition to your post Mays :)

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body becomes resistant to insulin. When this happens, the body fails to use glucose for energy and metabolic functioning. The beginning stages of the condition may cause no symptoms, however, as the condition progresses, type 2 diabetes may develop. While the cause of insulin resistance is uncertain, it is believed to be genetic. Certain risk factors may also contribute to the manifestation of the condition. The following are examples:

* Being overweight or obese
* Family history of diabetes
* Lack of exercise
* High blood pressure
* Low HDL cholesterol and high serum lipids
* Women who have given birth to large babies or suffered with gestational diabetes
* Race: those of Native American, African American, Asian or Hispanic decent


In mild forms, individuals with insulin resistance are asymptomatic. The following signs may help identify more severe cases:

* Dark patches of skin on the back or neck
* Ring around the neck
* Dark skin patches on the elbows, knuckles, knees or under the arms

If you have any of the above symptoms, your doctor can perform a fasting blood sugar test or glucose tolerance test to determine if you are insulin resistant.

Diet is a significant factor, which often determines your weight, health and many facets of your appearance. A healthy diet can improve the way you look and feel, and may also prevent a host of health complications. To determine which diet is best for insulin resistance, ask yourself the following questions:

* Do I need to lose weight?
* How much activity or exercise do I get daily?

Weight loss is among the most effective ways to prevent type 2 diabetes and return blood glucose levels to normal. If you have weight to lose, your diet should consist of fewer calories than those who are of a healthy weight. In addition, those who are active may need more calories to fuel their lifestyle. Your doctor can advise you as to how many calories you should take in daily.

Diet Guidelines

Once you have established your caloric needs, you can begin to plan your diet. The ideal diet for insulin resistance is a well-balanced diet, one that supplies your body with the energy you need while nourishing your cells, tissues and organs. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following are the basic food groups, from which you should consume the bulk of your daily calories:

* Grains
* Vegetables
* Fruits
* Milk/ Dairy
* Meats and beans

The following should be limited:

* Oils
* Discretionary calories

Next Discussion: Glucose tablets »