How to Lower Morning Blood Sugar Without Medication

Diabetes causes high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Even if you have good control of your levels most of the time, morning blood sugars can be a problem.

But you have options for lowering your morning blood glucose (sugar) levels. And they don't involve more medications or insulin.

This article looks at why mornings are a problem and several strategies for starting your day off better.

woman drinking water in bed

 Maskot / Getty Images

The Dawn Phenomenon

High morning blood glucose is common. It's called the dawn phenomenon or dawn effect.

It happens because:

  • Your body releases a surge of hormones as it prepares to wake up.
  • Those hormones can counter the effects of insulin.
  • Insulin regulates blood sugars, so this can make levels rise.
  • In people without diabetes, the body naturally releases more insulin to maintain things.
  • When you have diabetes, your body may not be able to compensate this way.

You can improve your morning readings despite this. It just takes some work and forethought.

When to Exercise

Exercise lowers blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity. That means your body uses insulin and glucose more effectively.

Studies suggest exercise can lead to optimal insulin regulation. Exercise in the afternoon or after dinner set you up for steady levels the next morning.

You may have heard exercising late in the day can disrupt sleep. Newer research shows it's fine. Just finish up at least an hour before bedtime.

If morning levels are still high, try adding moderate-intensity aerobic exercise before breakfast. Research suggests that can help counter the dawn phenomenon.

Morning exercise may also improve glucose control throughout the day.

Some good exercises for avoiding morning blood sugar spikes include:

  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Tai chi

Always talk to your healthcare provider before you start an exercise routine. They can help you devise a safe and effective regimen.

Recap

Exercise in the afternoon or evening can lower morning blood sugars. If you still have a high morning reading, try exercising before breakfast.

Apple Cider Vinegar

An inexpensive and easy way to prevent blood sugar spikes is vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is often recommended. The active ingredient is acetic acid.

Research suggests vinegar:

  • Changes how your body processes sugar
  • Lowers starch digestion
  • Makes your stomach empty more slowly (gastroparesis)
  • Improves HbA1c and triglycerides in rats with diabetes

Studies suggest between 10 milliliters (mL) and 30 mL is effective. That's between two and six tablespoons. You can take it as a shot or add it to foods or drinks.

What Is an HbA1c?

An HbA1c is a test that measures your average blood glucose over the past three months. It does this by looking at how much sugar is attached to hemoglobin in your blood cells. It's used to monitor your blood sugar control.

Limit Evening Carbs

Diet plays a major role in managing diabetes and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are a critical part of any diet. But you should eat them in moderation, especially if you have diabetes.

Your body converts 100% of the carbs you eat into glucose. People with diabetes are encouraged to count carbs.

Limiting your evening carb intake is one way to avoid morning highs. Be mindful of how many you get at dinner or nighttime snacks.

Carb recommendations vary with your:

The American Diabetes Association's general recommendation is 45 to 60 grams (g) per meal and 15 to 20 g per snack.

Bedtime Snacks

A high-fiber, low-fat snack before bed can satisfy hunger and minimize the dawn effect. Some good choices include:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • Fat-free popcorn
  • Low-fat granola
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Sugar-free popsicle
  • Small apple and reduced-fat cheese
  • Half a turkey sandwich

Watch Dinnertime Fat

Healthy fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. But they may increase your blood sugar levels.

High-fat dinners can delay the normal post-meal rise until the following morning. That's because fat slows down digestion.

Fatty foods can also contribute to obesity. That's a leading risk factor for diabetes. So eating less fat and more protein is a good approach for a diabetic diet.

You're better off eating "good" fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) than "bad" fats (saturated or trans fats). That's according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

"Good" Fats
  • Avocados

  • Canola oil

  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, peanuts, walnuts)

  • Olive oil and olives (look for low- or reduced-sodium products)

  • Peanut butter and peanut oil

  • Oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna)

  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil

  • Canola oil

  • Chia seeds

"Bad" Fats
  • Lard

  • Fatback and salt pork

  • High-fat meats (regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon)

  • High-fat dairy (full-fat cheese, cream, ice cream, whole or 2% milk, sour cream)

  • Butter, margarine, shortening

  • Cream sauces

  • Gravy made with meat drippings

  • Poultry skin

  • Fried foods

  • Baked goods (muffins, cookies, cakes)

  • Processed snack foods (crackers, chips)

Recap

A shot of vinegar, limited evening carbs, and a low-fat dinner can help with the dawn effect. Avoid saturated and trans fats. If you need more help, add a high-fiber, low-fat bedtime snack.

Prevent Nighttime Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar. It is the opposite of hyperglycemia.

Nighttime hypoglycemia can cause a rebound in blood sugar levels in the morning. That's called the Somogyi effect.

When you're hypoglycemic during sleep:

  • Your body releases hormones to counteract this drop.
  • That increases blood sugars.
  • It may lead to higher-than-normal morning spikes.

So it's important to eat enough before bed—through a balanced meal or snack—to avoid the dawn phenomenon.

Common symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Shaking
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Tingling feeling in the mouth
  • Fast heartbeat

Monitor your blood sugar often and have snacks on hand to counter any lows. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you have symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Work With Your Healthcare Provider

Talk to your healthcare provider about morning blood sugar spikes. See which changes they recommend for you.

They may want to change your medication, especially if lifestyle changes aren't helping. Possible reasons for medication change can include:

  • Weight changes
  • Activity Changes
  • Diet Changes
  • Recent illness

Never make changes to your medication without talking to your healthcare provider first.

Summary

Exercise in the afternoon or evening can lower morning blood sugars. If you still have a high morning reading, try exercising before breakfast.

A shot of vinegar, limited evening carbs, and a low-fat dinner can help with the dawn effect. Avoid saturated and trans fats. If you need more help, add a high-fiber, low-fat bedtime snack. Prevent nighttime hypoglycemia with dinner or snack choices.

Work with your doctor on ways to overcome the dawn phenomenon. You may need to adjust your medications.

A Word From Verywell 

Good blood sugar control isn't just about diabetes. It also helps your overall health and keeps you feeling good.

As you make changes, be sure to check your blood sugars more often until you know how your body responds.

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11 Sources
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