As a type 2 Diabetic, I’m well aware of the strange blood sugar measurements I’d see before I learned to control my blood sugar levels by adhering to the Paleo lifestyle but recently I have struggled with seemingly unexplainable high measurements in the morning.
If you frequently monitor your blood sugars then you know what I’m talking about with regard to unexplainable high measurements in the morning but in case you don’t, here is what I mean. I could take my blood sugar measurement before bed and it would be normal after a meal (say around 110 ug/dL) but then when I wake up in the morning the measurement would be above 110 ug/dL even before I ate breakfast.
How can that be? I didn’t sleep walk during the night and eat a bowl of ice cream and during the night my blood sugar levels should’ve dropped like they would during the day if I skipped a meal but miraculously they are higher!
I am well aware of the Dawn Phenomenon (DP), which causes blood sugar levels to spike in the early morning hours, and this is most likely the cause of my higher blood sugar levels in the morning and a nice explanation of the DP can be found here:
“Organs do this to keep blood glucose from going too low at night or other times of not eating. From about 2 AM to 8 AM, most people’s bodies produce hormones, including cortisol, glucagon, and epinephrine. All these hormones increase insulin resistance and tell the liver to make more glucose. The idea is to get you enough glucose to get out of bed and start the day. The whole process is apparently started by growth hormones.”
And somewhere I remember reading where this spike in blood sugar is a holdover from our Paleolithic ancestors. Thousands of years ago we woke up to a long list of physical activities – hunting, fixing shelters, building fires, etc. – so we needed that boost of energy to get us going. Evolution has hard coded this into our bodies and those folks without an insulin sensitivity issue counteract this high blood sugar level in the morning by producing more insulin. But those of us, like myself, who have abused their pancreas can’t produce that much to overcome this spike.
So why all of a sudden did this happen to me?
As you can see from the following graph, my morning blood sugar measurements have spiked within the last few months.
I think this recent shift can be attributed to two changes in my lifestyle over the past couple of months – 1) getting more sleep and 2) reducing the alcohol I consume in the evening.
Due to my intense work responsibilities, sleep was one area of the Paleo lifestyle that I had avoided but I made a commitment recently to get at least 7 hours so sleep each night and I have to say I feel so much better. My mind is sharper during the day, my workouts are easier and I generally feel better in all aspects of my life. Maybe the cortisol levels in my body are increased when I get more sleep and this explains part of the change.
But I think the other piece to this puzzle resides with bourbon. I wrote before how I saw lower blood sugar levels in the morning after I had 1 to 2 drinks of bourbon and that correlation was pretty rock solid. When I used to stay up late working I’d have a couple of drinks and once I stopped working at night, the bourbon drinking stopped as well and this also might explain the increase in blood sugar levels.
Over the past couple of months while I’ve been adjusting to this lifestyle change of getting more sleep, there have been periods where I have not been able to do this due to work schedules and as you can see from the graph below (plotting morning blood sugar levels vs. hours of sleep the night before), there is a slight correlation between the amount of sleep I get and the subsequent morning blood sugar measurements.
You can definitely see that there are two distinct populations on that graph!
The correlation is weak (R2 of 0.28) but the average of the two populations is definitely different (96.79 ug/dL when I got less than 7 hours of sleep and 113.10 ug/dL when I got more than 7 hours of sleep).
So what does this data lead me to do with my life?
I’m definitely not going back to getting less than 7 hours of sleep every night because the benefits I see from that far outweigh a mild increase in morning blood sugar levels due to the DP. I may start having a drink after dinner or engage in some high intensity exercise after dinner to help offset the DP and I’ll report on that later once I have more data.