Nocturnal hyperglycemia and its countermeasures

Sleeping with high blood sugar can be uncomfortable. The best way to fight high blood sugar or hyperglycemia at night is to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day.

Hyperglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels are too high. Although this is a well-known symptom of diabetes, you can still have high blood sugar even if you don’t have diabetes. Diabetes occurs when your body fails to produce enough (and sometimes any) insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels and stores excess glucose for energy.

Glucose levels change throughout the day and are related to when you last ate. You are considered to have diabetes if your blood sugar is above 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) on an empty stomach, above 180 mg/dL about two hours after eating, or above 200 mg/dL at random testing have hyperglycemia.

Causes of high blood sugar at night

There are many causes of high blood sugar at night, including:

  • Dinner or bedtime snack high in carbohydrates: Eating starchy or high-sugar foods later in the day can lead to high blood sugar in the evening, as well as high blood sugar in the morning.
  • Illness or injury: Trauma triggers a hypermetabolic response (accelerated metabolism), leading to high blood sugar.
  • Too little exercise: Exercise helps the body use insulin more efficiently, so lack of exercise can lead to high blood sugar.
  • Too little insulin or diabetes medication: Glucose builds up in the blood when the body is unable to produce insulin or use insulin effectively and you are not taking injected insulin or diabetes medication correctly.
  • Menstruation: Progesterone is a hormone associated with decreased insulin secretion, which affects glucose metabolism and can lead to hyperglycemia.
  • Pregnancy: Hormone levels fluctuate during pregnancy. Diabetes that occurs during pregnancy is called gestational diabetes.
  • Stress: Stress is associated with decreased insulin sensitivity as measured by levels of a hormone called cortisol. With this, glucose cannot enter your cells and be used for energy. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, leading to high blood sugar. When people are stressed, they may also overeat sugary foods or adopt other unhealthy eating habits.

What to eat to better regulate blood sugar

How high blood sugar affects sleep

Symptoms of high blood sugar that you may experience at night can make it difficult for you to sleep, both falling and staying asleep. Depending on when you eat before bed, your digestive system may wake you up at odd times.

A related problem is known as the dawn phenomenon, when you wake up in the morning with high blood sugar. The food you eat at night may contribute slightly to this.

Diabetes Side Effects and Comorbidities

nighttime snacks to regulate blood sugar

The best nighttime snacks to regulate blood sugar contain a combination of protein, healthy fats, and a limited portion of complex carbohydrates (that is, carbohydrates that contain fiber).

There are many snacks that meet this criteria, including:

  • Handful of nuts: According to the USDA, one cup of unsalted mixed nuts without peanuts contains about 23 grams of protein, 79 grams of fat, 32 grams of carbohydrates and 10.5 grams of fiber.
  • Low-fat cheese and graham crackers: A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of low-fat cheddar contains about 24 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat, and 2 grams of carbohydrates. A 100-gram serving of graham crackers contains about 10.5 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, 70 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fiber.
  • One apple and peanut butter: A 100-gram apple (or half a medium-sized apple) contains about 0.41 grams of protein, 14 grams of carbohydrates, no fat, and 2 grams of fiber. One tablespoon (16 grams) of peanut butter contains about 3.6 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fat, and 0.8 grams of fiber.
  • Greek yogurt: 100 grams of plain nonfat Greek yogurt contains about 3 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, less than half a gram of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, and no fiber. You can add a little sweetness with fruit.
  • Yogurt: According to a 2017 review, whether it’s Greek yogurt or regular yogurt, daily consumption of yogurt can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14%.
  • Air Popcorn: Three cups of popcorn and two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese have about 157 calories, 5.5 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of fiber and 7.5 grams of protein.

Supports healthy blood sugar levels

Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels during the day is a great way to prevent nighttime high blood sugar. This means exercising regularly, taking the right amount of diabetes medication (if you use them), and managing stress levels.

Lack of sleep itself is a possible risk factor for type 2 diabetes, so maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is important as part of a healthy lifestyle.

home remedies to improve sleep

VigorTip words

The genes you inherit and some of the stressors in your life are out of your control, but there are still things you can do to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and avoid nighttime highs. Start by anticipating stressful triggers or events that could lead to hyperglycemia, and plan ahead. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and getting physical activity can help you avoid high blood sugar.

If you notice unusual symptoms of high blood sugar at night, such as a sudden change in vision, seek medical attention right away. By recognizing that you are prone to nighttime hyperglycemia, you can work to identify triggers and mitigate associated risks, thereby reducing your chances of long-term ill health.