7 Surprising Things That Affect Blood Sugar Levels

Posted on 16th October, 2022

When you have diabetes, regularly checking your blood sugar is essential. Blood sugar checks help you know what’s effective and what you could be doing differently to stay in your target range.

Sometimes, the numbers don’t make sense. You ate balanced meals, had a great workout, and took your medication at the right times, but your blood sugar readings don’t match your efforts. What gives?

Managing diabetes isn’t as simple as just eating right and exercising. Many factors impact our blood sugars, and we might not even know it. Here are some that may surprise you.

1. Sickness and illness

When you’re sick, your body releases hormones that increase your blood sugars.

While you may not feel it happening in the moment, be sure to test your blood sugar to understand these trends.

It’s also important to have a plan in place with your doctor for what to do when you’re sick, and how you can manage blood sugars while you get well.

2. Stress

Ever notice elevated blood sugars when you’re stressed? That’s because stress triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response, and can release hormones that result in elevated blood sugars.

When you’re experiencing additional stressors, like a larger workload or family issues, it’s important to look for ways to relieve that stress to help your blood glucose balance out.

3. Lack of sleep

A good night’s rest is important for us all, but should be a major priority for people with diabetes.

Sleep helps our bodies reset and regulates hormones. A lack of sleep can result in consuming more food for energy, thus causing a rise in blood sugars.

4. Food and medication timing

Are you timing your food and medications properly? Timing medication right is one great way to keep your blood sugars in range.

If you take medications too soon, you may experience hypoglycemia. If you take them too late, you may see a blood sugar spike.

Staying on top of your scheduled medications is a helpful way to ensure your blood sugars are in range.

5. Caffeine

Do you love that morning cup of coffee? It could be behind a morning blood sugar spike.

While everyone is unique, if you’re wondering about persistent highs and have caffeine as part of your routine, consider lowering your caffeine consumption.

6. Dawn phenomenon

The dawn phenomenon happens typically in the early morning hours before breakfast and occurs when your body doesn’t release enough insulin to match the early-morning rise in blood sugar.

Many people with diabetes experience higher-than-expected fasting blood sugars due to dawn phenomenon.

If you notice high blood sugars in the morning, but your blood sugars after dinner and before bed were normal, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor.

7. Insulin

Insulin is used in people with diabetes to lower blood sugars, but what if you took insulin and you noticed your blood sugars aren’t in the right target?

These factors affect how insulin works:

  • Timing. Ideally, you want to time your insulin with your meals properly and take enough to cover your meal.
  • Dosing. It’s important to inject insulin subcutaneously so your body absorbs it properly and your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low too fast.
  • Expiration date. Using unexpired insulin ensures your injection has the right potency.

The takeaway

Life with diabetes is never boring. It can keep you on your toes, learning how you’ll respond to different treatments.

Next time your blood sugar seems out of whack, don’t be discouraged. Keep these factors in mind and ask yourself what adjustments can get you back on track.

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