Understanding Morning High Blood Sugars: The Dawn Phenomenon and Post-Fasting Spikes

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High blood sugars in the morning can be perplexing for individuals following a ketogenic diet or managing diabetes. Two common occurrences contributing to elevated blood sugars are the Dawn Phenomenon and post-fasting spikes. In this article, we will delve into the mechanisms behind these phenomena, how long blood sugars may remain elevated, and strategies to manage them effectively.

1. The Dawn Phenomenon:

The Dawn Phenomenon refers to the natural rise in blood sugar levels that occurs in the early morning hours, typically between 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., regardless of food intake. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon:

– Hormonal Changes: During the early morning hours, the body releases hormones such as cortisol and growth hormone, which work to increase blood sugar levels to provide energy for waking up.

– Liver Activity: The liver releases stored glucose (glycogen) into the bloodstream as a response to hormonal signals, contributing to elevated blood sugars.

– Circadian Rhythm: The body’s internal clock plays a role in regulating various metabolic processes, including glucose metabolism, leading to increased insulin resistance in the early morning.

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2. Post-Fasting Blood Sugar Spikes:

After a period of fasting, whether it is overnight or during intermittent fasting, blood sugar levels can unexpectedly rise. Several reasons may contribute to this phenomenon:

– Rebound Effect: Following a fast, especially a prolonged one, the body may overcompensate by releasing higher levels of glucose into the bloodstream to replenish energy stores.

– Hormonal Response: Fasting triggers the release of counter-regulatory hormones such as glucagon and adrenaline, which stimulate the liver to produce glucose, contributing to elevated blood sugars.

– Dawn Phenomenon Amplification: In individuals experiencing the Dawn Phenomenon, fasting can exacerbate morning blood sugar spikes due to increased liver activity and hormonal changes.

Duration of Elevated Blood Sugars:

The duration of elevated blood sugars varies among individuals and depends on factors such as insulin sensitivity, dietary habits, and overall metabolic health. For some, blood sugars may return to baseline levels within a few hours, while others may experience prolonged periods of elevated blood sugars throughout the morning.

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Managing Morning High Blood Sugars:

– Monitor Blood Sugars: Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, particularly in the morning and after fasting, can help identify patterns and trends.

– Adjust Meal Timing: Experimenting with meal timing, especially carbohydrate intake in the evening, may help mitigate the Dawn Phenomenon and post-fasting spikes.

– Incorporate Physical Activity: Engaging in light exercise, such as walking or stretching, in the morning can help improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels.

– Consider Medication Adjustments: For individuals with diabetes, consulting a healthcare provider to adjust medication doses or timing may be necessary to manage morning high blood sugars effectively.


Morning high blood sugars, attributed to the Dawn Phenomenon and post-fasting spikes, can pose challenges for individuals following a ketogenic diet or managing diabetes. Understanding the underlying mechanisms and implementing appropriate strategies can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote overall metabolic health. By monitoring blood sugars, adjusting meal timing, incorporating physical activity, and consulting healthcare providers as needed, individuals can effectively manage morning high blood sugars and optimize their well-being on a ketogenic journey.

useful links

The dawn phenomenon: What can you do? – Mayo Clinic

Dawn Phenomenon (Liver Dump) – Diabetes UK

Dawn phenomenon – Wikipedia

YouTube Video – High Early Morning Glucose | Dawn Phenomenon & Somogyi Effect

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