Morning symptom that strikes before 8am

Experiencing the dawn phenomenon can signal you have type 2 diabetes – a condition characterised by high blood sugar levels.

There are many symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes – but they often slip under the radar at first.

This makes type 2 diabetes insidious: it’s a leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age and is a major contributor to chronic disease, yet many people do not know they have it.

Spotting the warning signs can therefore prevent the condition from getting worse and start you on your journey to reversing it.

One way of doing this is to recognise a lesser-known indicator of type 2 diabetes known as the dawn phenonemon.

Non-specific tiredness may spell high blood sugar levels in the morning

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The dawn phenomenon describes an early-morning rise in blood sugar, also called blood glucose, in people with diabetes.

The dawn effect usually happens between 4am and 8am in the morning, explains health body the Mayo Clinic.

The cause of the dawn phenomenon isn’t clear. Some researchers believe the overnight release of certain hormones that happens naturally increases insulin resistance, which subsequently drives up blood sugar levels.

Signs to spot

One of the telltale signs of a rise in blood sugar first thing in the morning is a dry mouth, explains The London Diabetes Center.

This is often preceded by waking up frequently in the night to urinate or feeling thirsty, the health body notes.

“Thirst and increased urination of diabetes are well known and occur when blood glucoses are really high,” it adds.

Other morning symptoms can be more subtle and include:

  • Non-specific tiredness
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Poor healing of minor wounds
  • Fungal infections and boils

How to treat the dawn phenomenon

“Your doctor or healthcare professional will be able to help you to correct either dawn phenomenon or alternative reasons for high blood glucose levels in the early morning,” explains

Man weighing himself with a measuring tape

Losing weight can put diabetes into remission, research suggests

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According to the health body, they may suggest one of the following to help stabilise your morning blood sugar levels:

  • Adjusting insulin dosage
  • Adjusting medication dosage
  • Switching to different medication
  • Switching to an insulin with a different profile of activity
  • Not eating carbohydrate snacks before bed
  • Using an insulin pump to administer extra insulin

A longer-term strategy aims to put the progression of your diabetes into reverse. Experts generally agree that losing weight is an effective way of achieving this.

Indeed, a study published last year found weight loss can put type 2 diabetes into remission for at least five years.

There are lots of simple ways you can shed the pounds. The NHS recommends the following:

  • Get active for 150 minutes a week – you can break this up into shorter sessions
  • Aim to get your five-a-day – 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit or vegetables count as one portion
  • Aim to lose 1 to 2lbs, or 0.5 to 1kg, a week
  • Read food labels – products with more green colour coding than amber and red are often a healthier option
  • Swap sugary drinks for water – if you do not like the taste, add slices of lemon or lime for flavour
  • Cut down on food that’s high in sugar and fat – start by swapping sugary cereal for wholegrain alternatives
  • Share your weight loss plan with someone you trust – they can help motivate you when you have a bad day


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