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How soon after I wake up should I check my blood sugar?

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinologist

First thing in the morning, before your feet even hit the floor, is “low tide” for your blood sugar. Unless you were to overdose on diabetes medications or get a guest spot on Dancing with the Stars, this will be your lowest blood sugar of the day.

This is an important check, so long as you keep it in perspective. It is only one minute in a day with 1,440 minutes in it. What’s happening the other 1,339 minutes?

Carrying our nautical theme to a nauseating extreme, if you only check low tide, you’ll miss the boat. The point of diabetes control is too keep your blood sugar under a given target number. But if you never check when your blood sugar is likely to be high, such as several hours after a meal, you really won’t know if you are succeeding.

Bottom line: checking only first thing in the morning can lead to a dangerous sense of false security. The only way to know if your diabetes therapy is effective for you and your diabetes is to test at various times on various days.

If your insurance only covers one test strip per day, you can shake things up by testing at a different time every day of the week, or testing seven times throughout the day once per week.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Work with your doctor to come up with a schedule for testing your blood sugar. Factors for you and your doctor to consider in developing your schedule include the medicines you take, when you eat and how well-controlled your blood sugar is. Many people with diabetes find that it works well for them to check blood sugar first thing in the morning, but talk with your doctor to find out what's best for you.

It is best to check your blood sugar immediately after waking up. This will give you the most accurate fasting reading. The general guideline for a fasting blood sugar reading is a blood glucose level between 70 and 130 mg/dL. Again, this is a guideline. You may be recently diagnosed and unable to obtain that range yet. Speak with your primary care doctor and certified diabetes educator on realistic goals for you to aim for in the immediate future with the long term goal of ultimately reaching 70 to 130 mg/dL.

Check your blood glucose immediately on awakening—before any morning activities, such as showering, shaving or putting on makeup. The reason for this schedule is that if your blood glucose is low, you can drink some juice or milk. If it is high, you can take your insulin immediately and allow it to work at least one hour before breakfast. It is important to get into this habit, because if you start the day with a normal blood glucose level before breakfast, keeping your blood glucose under control throughout the day is much easier. Monitoring your sugar immediately on awakening does not take a major change in lifestyle, but it is very effective in improving your blood glucose control.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.