If you’ve ever woken up in the morning to find your blood sugars surging high, you might have thought to yourself, “How can this be possible? I didn’t eat anything while I was asleep!”
The Somogyi Effect - If blood sugars dip too low during sleep (hypoglycemia), the body will react by releasing hormones that raise blood sugar levels. Sometimes the body will raise blood sugar too much, causing a glucose spike by the time you’re awake.
The Dawn Phenomenon - In the early hours of the morning, it’s not uncommon for blood sugars to rise during the process of waking up. Hormones are released that signal the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream. Some researchers think this “phenomenon” is due to a period of insulin resistance during sleep. This is different than the Somogyi Effect because it not caused by a rebound from hypoglycemia.
A rise in blood sugar when waking can also be an indication that you need to adjust your medications or lifestyle routines, so it’s important to talk with your doctor to pinpoint the cause and identify the best solutions.
For many people, the solution can be as simple as eating a snack before bed to help stabilize blood sugars and prevent the liver from dumping more glucose into the bloodstream during sleep. If your doctor recommends adding a bedtime snack to your routine, consider foods rich in protein and healthy fats and low in carbohydrates.
Here are eight healthy bedtime snacks that can help you avoid a morning sugar surge:
- Nuts - A handful of roasted or raw nuts makes for a great blend of protein and healthy fats with limited carbohydrates. Try mixing up your nut selection with choices like almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and pistachios. Each provides their own profile of vitamins and minerals but contains high amounts of healthy fats as well as fiber, which is essential for keeping blood sugar stable.
- Cheese and crackers - This fan-favorite snack is simple, yet satisfying. Pair string cheese or a few cheese cubes with a small handful of whole-grain crackers for a good mix of carbohydrates and protein. If you find that crackers raise your glucose levels too much, you can swap them out for fresh veggies like cucumbers, sliced bell pepper, or cherry tomatoes.
- Hummus and veggies - Chickpeas that are found in hummus are a wonderful source of protein and fiber, which helps slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. A couple of tablespoons paired with raw, fresh veggies makes a for a fiber-packed bedtime snack.
- Popcorn - Curling up on the couch with a small bowl of popcorn may seem like an indulgent treat, but can actually be quite healthy, depending on how it’s prepared. Popcorn contains high amounts of fiber, which helps keep blood sugars steady even when carbs are consumed. Avoid popcorn made with highly-processed vegetable oils or containing added sugars.
- Apple with peanut or almond butter - Peanuts and almonds are both rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Paired with a small, fibrous apple and you have a wonderful, satisfying snack that is sure to keep blood sugars steady through the night.
- Plain yogurt and berries - There are many nutritional benefits to plain yogurt, including a good dose of protein and gut-healthy bacteria, known as probiotics. Plain yogurt is tart and relatively low in carbohydrates. Add a couple of tablespoons of fresh berries for added fiber and to sweeten slightly.
- Avocado toast - Avocados are loaded with heart-healthy fats that can be very beneficial for those living with diabetes. Fat also helps in slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, which is why avocado makes a great pairing with a higher-carb density food like toast. For the toast, opt for a higher fiber variety with whole grains. The more fiber, the less impact on blood sugars.
- Chia seed pudding - Have a sweet tooth before bedtime? Chia seed pudding is packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but also feels indulgent when you’re eating it. The pudding can be made easily at home by soaking a few tablespoons of chia seeds in your favorite milk for a few hours—try unsweetened almond or coconut milk to reduce carbs. To flavor the pudding, you can add in a tablespoon of plain cocoa powder for a chocolate variety, or add vanilla extract or cinnamon. Sweeten with berries or a pinch of stevia.
It’s important to closely monitor any changes in blood sugar before and after consuming the snack and when you wake to determine if the snack has made a positive impact on stabilizing your blood sugars. Everybody is different and can react differently to different foods.