Over and over again, I have heard people say “Don’t eat after 8pm, its bad for your health” with no evidence to back up this supposed claim. Your body will not magically turn all calories into fat if you eat a piece of fruit, a cracker or even your dinner the second the clock strikes 8pm, but for those with type 2 diabetes, not eating a nighttime snack may actually be contributing to high blood sugars in the morning.
Medications for diabetes-especially insulin – work by helping glucose enter the cells and lowering blood sugar values. This medication is adjusted specifically for each individual in order to make sure that blood sugars don’t stay too high or drop too low. However, insulin may act in your body for an extended period of time, depending on the type. During the day, we are constantly providing our body with sources of carbohydrates either by eating three distinct meals every several hours or grazing throughout the day. For those who choose not to eat anything between dinner and breakfast the next morning, this provides a window of potentially twelve hours with no carbohydrates entering the bloodstream. As mentioned before, insulin often works over an extended period of time, and may still be helping lower your blood sugar at night when you are sleeping and will cause a low blood sugar at night. You might be wondering how this will lead to high blood sugars in the morning right about now.
Our bodies have a unique system of storing some extra glucose in our liver, and these stores are called glycogen. When we eat foods that are turned into glucose as they are digested, a limited amount of this glucose is stored in the liver for emergency purposes in case we need a boost of energy to run away from a bear that is about to eat us. For the average American, we typically don’t encounter bears on a day to day basis, and this extra storage is mainly just that – extra. This extra glucose storage is used for another purpose also. If blood sugars get too low at night, the body releases some of its stored glucose into the bloodstream. More often than not, more glucose than needed is released into the bloodstream, causing you to wake up with a high blood sugar value- hiding the low blood sugar that happened in the middle of the night.
Eating a snack before bedtime will shorten the window of time that your body is going without carbohydrates. For example, eating a snack with one carbohydrate choice (15g Carbohydrates) mixed with protein and fat will help glucose slowly be released during the night, and will help make sure blood sugars don’t drop at night when medications are working with no food entering your system.
If you find yourself having relatively stable blood sugars during the day, yet high blood sugars in the morning, try a nighttime snack to help maintain blood sugar regularity.
Here are some bedtime snack ideas:
- 1 small apple and tablespoon peanut butter
- 5 wheat thins and an ounce of cheese
- 4 oz cottage cheese and a small handful of nuts