Should Diabetics Eat a Bedtime Snack?

As a diabetes educator, I would always get asked this question! I think it's important to clarify, that NOT ALL people with diabetes need a bedtime snack. It really depends on what happens to blood sugars overnight - are they rising slowly? Are they going too low? Do they have a sharp rise at 4am when your “rest and repair” hormones are being released?

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT MY BLOOD SUGARS ARE DOING OVERNIGHT?

Of course, you can wake up and check your blood sugar at certain time points in the middle of the night. However, I LOVE when patients can try a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) like Freestyle Libre or Dexcom. This tells you real time what is happening with your blood sugar every minute. Talk to your doctor about trying this option. Your insurance may cover it as a prescription (GoodRx does have coupon cards to help cover cost otherwise), and it could be something you try temporarily – even for just a few weeks with the FreeStyle Libre.

A CGM helps you really learn your body - your blood sugar response is unique to sleep and certain foods!

BLOOD SUGARS INCREASE OVERNIGHT?

This can be from a few reasons: Liver (dawn phenomenon), Somogyi effect (discussed above), or the release of “rest & repair” hormones overnight.

However, the MOST obvious one is … if you are snacking through bedtime or in the middle of the night. Generally, it’s BEST for most people (including people living with diabetes) to not eat for at least 2 hours before bed. If you MUST eat something – consider one of the options in the section below.

If you are NOT eating before bedtime yet still experience a rise in blood sugars overnight, it is likely that your liver is making and releasing extra sugar into the bloodstream – a sign of insulin resistance and a fatty liver. Certain medications or natural ingredients that sensitize insulin can be helpful to “shut” the liver off from producing too much sugar (such as Metformin, Berberine, Cinnamon, & Chromium).

Also, although opposite to my recommendation above, some people find benefit with having a small protein-based snack before bed to see if it helps. Protein is more slowly converted to glucose by the body. If the liver senses a slow steady influx of glucose throughout the night, this gives it the “message” via hormonal signaling not to make any extra.

Everyone is unique with regard to blood sugar response, so the best approach is to try different methods and monitor blood sugars to see what works best for you.

BLOOD SUGARS DROP TOO LOW OVERNIGHT?

This is sometimes called the “Somogyi effect”. If you are someone that struggles consistently with LOW blood sugars overnight - you don’t just need a snack, you need to talk to your doctor about lowering/adjusting your medication or insulin dose (or trying a different kind of insulin). Medications like glipizide and insulin can cause blood sugars to drop dangerously low.

There are better medication options available now a days that don’t cause hypoglycemia, because of how they work on the pancreas (such as Trulicity, Ozempic, Jardiance, Januvia). Instead of eating to prevent a low blood sugar, and then gaining weight from eating and taking a fat storing hormone (i.e. insulin) – talk with your doctor about these alternative options or, if insulin is needed, about lowering your insulin dose or changing to an insulin less likely to cause low readings.

BLOOD SUGARS ARE STABLE?

Congrats! Again, try not to eat within 2 hours before bedtime to avoid disrupting this blood sugar balance. If you are really needing a snack, try a lower-carb option that focuses on protein & fat to provide a fullness feeling without the spike in blood sugars.

Protein is still converted to sugar by the body, but at a much slower and lower rate than eating carbohydrates (bread, crackers, pretzels, chips, rice, pasta, etc) or sweets. Eating “fat” has essentially zero effect on blood sugars or insulin release, so this is also a good snack option – just be mindful that fat generally has more calories (if you are watching weight) so be mindful of portion size.

Late Night Snack Ideas for Diabetics

Late Night Snack Ideas for Diabetics

Looking for ideas? Here are my favorite easy & healthy snack options:

1. Handful (yes, ONE handful!) of almonds and/or walnuts
2. 1-2 Hard Boiled Eggs
3. Four Cheese & Wheat Crackers
4. Celery OR Apple dipped in Peanut Butter
5. Sugar-Free Greek Yogurt
6. 1/2 cup Cottage Cheese, Blueberries & Cinnamon

As a pharmacist clinician & diabetes educator, my passion is to help people optimize their health naturally with lifestyle. I hope you find my tips helpful and educational!

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