Going to bed with high blood sugar can be uncomfortable. The best way to counter high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, at night is a routine that keeps your blood sugar balanced throughout the day.
High blood sugar occurs when blood glucose levels are too high. Though it 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 can’t produce enough—or sometimes any—insulin. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels and stores excess glucose for energy.
Glucose levels change throughout the day and in relation to when you have last eaten. When your blood glucose is higher than 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) while fasting, 180 mg/dL approximately two hours after eating, or higher than 200 mg/dL when randomly tested, you are considered to have hyperglycemia.
Causes of High Blood Sugar at Night
There are many causes of high blood sugar at night, including:
A dinner or bedtime snack high in carbohydrates: Eating starchy or high-sugar foods late in the day can lead to high blood sugar at night, as well as high blood sugar in the morning.
Illness or injury: Trauma can trigger a hypermetabolic response (a speeding up of metabolism), leading to high blood sugar.
2Too little exercise: Exercise helps the body more effectively use insulin, so lack of exercise could contribute to high blood sugar.
3 Too little insulin or diabetes medicine: When the body does not produce insulin or does not use insulin effectively and you don’t properly take your injectable insulin or diabetes medicine, glucose can accumulate in the bloodstream.
4 Menstruation: Progesterone is a hormone linked to a decreased production of insulin, which affects glucose metabolism and can potentially lead to high blood sugar.
5.Pregnancy: Hormone levels fluctuate during pregnancy. Diabetes that occurs during pregnancy is known as gestational diabetes.
6.Stress: Stress, as measured by levels of a hormone called cortisol, is linked to decreased insulin sensitivity. With this, glucose cannot get into your cells and be used for energy. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar.6 When people are stressed, they may also overeat sugary foods or adopt other unhealthy eating habits.
How High Blood Sugar Impacts Sleep
The symptoms you may experience with high blood sugar at night could make it difficult for you to sleep, including falling and staying asleep. Depending on when you eat prior to bedtime, your digestive system may wake you up at odd hours.
A related issue is known as the dawn phenomenon, which is when you wake up with high blood sugar in the morning. The foods you eat in the evening may contribute slightly to this.7
Nighttime Snacks to Regulate Blood Sugar
The best nighttime snacks to regulate blood sugar contain a combination of protein, a healthy fat, and a limited portion of complex carbohydrates, meaning one with fiber.
There are many snacks that fit this standard, including:
A handful of nuts: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 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.8
Low-fat cheese and whole wheat crackers: A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) portion of low-fat cheddar cheese contains about 24 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat, and 2 grams of carbohydrates.9 A 100-gram serving of whole wheat crackers contains about 10.5 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, 70 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of fiber.10
An apple and peanut butter: A 100-gram apple (or a little more than half a medium-sized apple) contains about 0.41 grams of protein, 14 grams of carbohydrates, no fat, and 2 grams of fiber.11 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.12
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.13 You can add a bit of sweetness with fruit.
Yogurt: Whether Greek or regular, yogurt has been found to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14% if consumed daily, according to a 2017 review.14
Air-popped popcorn: A three-cup serving of popcorn with two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese measures in at about 157 calories, 5.5 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbs, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 7.5 grams of protein.1516
Supporting Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels during the day is a good way to prevent high blood sugar at night. That means exercising regularly, taking the right amount of diabetes medications if you use them, and managing stress levels.
Lack of sleep itself is a possible risk factor for type 2 diabetes, so it is important to maintain a healthy sleep cycle as part of a healthy lifestyle.17
A Word From Verywell
The genes you inherit as well as certain stressors in life are out of your control, but there are still steps you can take to maintain a healthy blood sugar level and avoid nighttime hyperglycemia. Start by anticipating stress triggers or events that may contribute to high blood sugar, and plan ahead. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in physical activity can help you avoid high blood sugar.
If you notice unusual symptoms of high blood sugar in the evenings, such as sudden changes in vision, seek immediate medical attention. By recognizing that you are prone to nighttime high blood sugar, you can work to identify the triggers and mitigate the associated risks, thus reducing your chances of having long-term poor health outcomes.