Why Do Diabetics Wake Up In the Middle of the Night?

Most diabetics have had the unpleasant experience of bolting upright in bed with face flushed and sweaty, and a feeling of doom in their chest. This unnatural sensation that can take a while to calm down from is often the result of blood sugar levels dropping too low.

If this is you, you might want to hear me out.

An Up and Down Ride

For diabetics, blood glucose control is a major issue. It’s not just that their bodies have chronically high blood sugar or insulin problems, but they can have a sudden drop in blood sugars too. There are any number of causes, such as:

  • Too much insulin after a late dinner
  • Exercising right before bed
  • Having a more active day than usual
  • Too much sugar during the day

The Stress Response

Naturally, the brain doesn’t like going hungry. So, when your blood sugar levels drop too low, it triggers the body to release adrenaline and glucagon. These hormones stimulate the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream, increasing energy supply to the brain again.

Adrenaline is also a hormone released during stressful periods to help ready the body for the flight-or-fight response. A large amount of it entering the bloodstream can trigger sudden awareness and anxiety. You may also have:

  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Sweat-soaked bedclothes
  • A headache
  • Bad dreams

In the morning, diabetics may also notice that their blood glucose reading is higher than normal. This could indicate that your body rebounded from low levels.

Getting Back To Sleep

An easy way to help the symptoms pass and get back to sleep is to have a midnight snack. Look for something with protein and a little fat, like:

  • A spoonful of peanut butter
  • A boiled egg
  • Some grilled chicken or another meat

Try to avoid eating anything with sugar or carbs as it can lead to another blood sugar spike and drop. During the daytime, you can help keep this from happening with a healthy, low-carb and high protein diet.

[expand title=”References“]

Do You Bolt Awake at 3 a.m.? Low Blood Sugar Symptoms May Be To Blame. URL Link. Accessed March 27, 2017.

Avoiding Nighttime Lows. URL Link. Accessed March 27, 2017.

The Liver and Blood Sugar. URL Link. Accessed March 27, 2017.



Blood Glucose Control: What to Eat, Part I

4 Diabetes-Friendly Exercise Ideas