My biggest challenge when it comes to managing my blood sugars is the overnight hours. I know it is largely in part to the fact that I am a nighttime eater, consuming most of my calories after 7 pm. But I have also done some investigating and noticed my blood sugars naturally rise around 9-10 pm, so I am fighting an uphill battle. I started looking for some tips and tactics to try in order to improve my nighttime blood sugar levels.
Here are 10 tips on how to lower your overnight numbers, which will give you a better night’s rest too.
1. Basal Testing
This should come first no matter what issues you are having when it comes to your blood sugars. Without knowing the proper dose of “background” insulin your body needs, it becomes much more difficult to figure out how to dose for meals, creating a rollercoaster of events. In Gary Scheiner’s book “Think like a Pancreas” he explains basal testing in an easy-to-understand and methodical way.
2. Don’t Eat Too Close to Bedtime
Many people confuse this statement to mean that you can gain more weight by eating late at night. This simply not true. It comes down to a science and so long as you are in a caloric deficit, it doesn’t much matter when you take in your food. However, if you eat too close to the time you shut your eyes, it becomes more challenging to stay on top of your blood sugars. Eating about two hours prior to when you shut the lights will give you more time to assess how your blood sugar is trending, and (if needed) get your blood sugars back in range so you can get some sleep.
3. Take Advantage of Technology
If you are fortunate enough to own a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) , you should make the most of its features. Keep the alarms set to a high and low blood sugar number that you are comfortable with to help wake you if damage control is needed. You can also share Dexcom with a loved one who could alert you of dangerous numbers if you are unable to wake from the alarm on your own. Pumps like Tandem Basal Control have become extremely popular, as they can release insulin if your blood sugars get too high allowing you to focus solely on dreaming of a cure!
4. Try to Relax
It is known that stress can lead to higher blood sugar numbers and can also contribute to insulin resistance. When stress hormones like cortisol kick in, it can raise blood sugar levels, which is often what you see in the morning with dawn phenomenon. Additionally, stress hormones are known to increase insulin resistance. “Hyperglycemia is particularly exaggerated by elevations of cortisol and epinephrine in diabetes as a consequence of an altered response of the liver to these hormones,” scientists summarize. Put down your phone, drink some hot tea or read a good book in order to relax and put yourself in the right mindset for both in-range blood sugars and restful sleep.
5. Carb Count and Dose Accordingly
If you are taking insulin, this is something you likely do on a regular basis. Since I am so picky and stick to the same foods, I really don’t count carbs at all. I use the “WAG” strategy (wild a** guess), but this could wind up costing you a good night’s sleep. Make sure to count your carbs, know your carb-to-insulin ratio, time your dose correctly and keep your fingers crossed. Pumps have calculators built in to help make this easier for you and if you are on shots, you should check out the InPen, which has been a lifesaver for me in regards to getting my doses right and keeping my blood sugars in range.
6. Set Alarms and Stick to a Routine
Setting alarms will not only help remind you to take any oral medications and/or insulin but setting an alarm in the middle of the night can allow you to do a quick correction or chug some water if you are experiencing high blood sugars. Many times, if you take your medication or basal insulin an hour too soon or too late, it could impact your blood sugar levels.
7. Adjust Doses If Necessary
We are often so busy that we forget that many different things can affect both our medication and insulin doses. If you recently lost weight, started exercising, are taking steroids, changed your diet, or have become pregnant, to name a few, you should check in with yourself and your health care team to make sure you are taking the proper amount of medication. Ensuring that you are will no doubt give you better results at all times including the hours of rest.
8. Don’t Exercise Too Close to Bedtime
Many of us have busy schedules that only allow for nighttime workouts. If this is the case, try to fill up on protein-rich foods prior so that you don’t wind up with too much insulin in your system a few hours later when you are trying to fall asleep. Also, weight training can spike our blood sugar meaning you may wind up having to correct it. Being awake and alert for a few hours after a workout can only help your blood sugar management.
9. Be Wary of Delayed Blood Sugar Spikes Due to Protein
There are many times when two hours after dinner I am pleasantly surprised by my blood sugar number. But, I notice it starts to slowly creep up shortly after. Unlike carbs that quickly break down to glucose, protein can trigger a blood glucose rise that takes place over several hours. If your dinner is protein-heavy make sure to check your blood sugars a few hours after to troubleshoot any blood sugar spikes.
10. Stay Hydrated
Water plays a key role in keeping blood sugars in range. If we are adequately hydrated, the glucose levels in our blood can’t become too concentrated resulting in hyperglycemia. Water has the ability to reduce blood sugar by diluting the amount of sugar in the blood. Staying hydrated can also help you in your weight loss efforts. My advice is to make sure you get your water in throughout the day so you’re not paying for it with trips to the bathroom all night!
It isn’t easy to schedule in “troubleshoot my overnight numbers” to our already busy schedule, but taking the time to heed some of the above advice is sure to help your numbers improve, allowing for a more peaceful night.
Do you have trouble with your overnight blood sugars? Do you have any advice that worked for you? Share and comment below!