***This article is for general informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, cure, or diagnose any disease. The information in this article is not a substitute for medical care or advice provided by your healthcare team. Please consult your doctor or dietitian for specific, personalized treatment.***
If you need information for bedtime snacks for diabetes to help keep blood sugars in check, this post has you covered. As a dietitian living with type 1 diabetes, I aim to have one of these snacks every night. We’ll discuss why snacking at night may or may not be a good idea, reasons for high or low overnight blood sugars, and snack ideas for diabetes.
Should you snack before going to bed?
First, you may be wondering if a bedtime snack is good for diabetes.
Research on this topic is limited, but one small study did find that what your blood sugar is determines the need for a bedtime snack. Researchers concluded no snack is needed if blood sugar is greater than 180 mg/dL, between 126 and 180 mg/dL any snack is advised, and below 126 mg/dL calls for a snack combination of carbs and protein or just protein alone.
Current research suggests bedtime snacking for blood sugar control should be individualized rather than recommended for all persons with diabetes. People who are more at risk for going low overnight should be encouraged to snack. This includes those who have had diabetes for a long time, have hypoglycemia unawareness, exercised later in the day, or consumed alcohol.
Based on this information, if you feel your blood sugar is in a good range for you and/or you’re at risk for going low overnight, try a bedtime snack that has 15 grams of carbs or less with a protein source, or just protein alone. Experiment with different snacks and see how they affect your fasting blood sugar.
What to look for in a bedtime snack for diabetes
As mentioned above, a bedtime snack when you have diabetes should be about 15 grams of carbs or less, contain a source of protein, or consist of just protein alone.
25 best bedtime snacks for diabetes
Below are some great bedtime snack options for diabetes split into two categories: 0-6 grams of carbs and 7-15 grams of carbs.
0-6 grams of carbs snacks
7-15 grams of carbs snacks
If you’re having trouble with high or low blood sugars overnight despite snacking or not, the following information can help troubleshoot. But, as always, make sure to let your diabetes care team know if you’re having problems with blood sugars.
Reasons for low blood sugars overnight
With diabetes, you might be more inclined to have a bedtime snack if your blood sugar is often going low overnight. The following are reasons for overnight low blood sugars:
- Too much basal insulin
- Not enough carbs at supper compared to the dose of fast-acting insulin
- Too many hours without food
- Late afternoon or evening exercise
Too much basal insulin
How do you know if you’re potentially getting too much basal insulin? A good indicator would be if your blood sugar is dipping too low and it’s been 4+ hours since you’ve eaten.
Too few carbs with too much insulin
Another reason for low overnight blood sugars includes overestimating the amount of carbs you’re eating at supper. If you dose your insulin based on 80 grams of carbs at supper but only consume 60 grams, you can anticipate a low blood sugar within a few hours.
Going without food for too long
When you’re sleeping, you’re probably not eating. Going 8+ hours without any food (glucose) in your system combined with too much basal insulin can lead to a low blood sugar.
Late afternoon or evening exercise
Did you know that exercise can affect your blood sugar for several hours after you finish? This means physical activity after lunch has the potential to cause a low blood sugar overnight as exercise makes your body more sensitive to insulin.
Finally, alcohol consumption is another reason for nighttime lows. Alcohol can cause delayed low blood sugar, especially when taking insulin or certain oral diabetes medications.
Reasons for high blood sugars overnight
On the other hand, you might be less inclined to have a bedtime snack if you often wake up with high blood sugars. The following are possible reasons for high overnight blood sugars:
- Not enough basal insulin
- Not enough bolus insulin with supper
- High fat, large snack at bedtime
- Reduced activity in the evening
- Dawn phenomenon
- Somogyi effect
Not enough insulin
If you’re constantly waking up with a high blood sugar, not enough insulin may be the culprit. You may not be getting enough basal insulin overnight, or you didn’t have enough bolus insulin to cover the amount of carbs eaten at supper.
High fat, large snack at bedtime
Fat takes a lot longer for your body to digest. This is why you may have a low soon after eating a high fat, high carb food like pizza and then have a high blood sugar several hours later. So, if you choose to have a bedtime snack that is large or very high in fat (like several servings of potato chips) you’ll probably wake up with a high blood sugar.
Reduced evening activity
If you tend to be pretty sedentary most of the afternoon into the evening, this may make your body less sensitive to insulin, causing higher blood sugars.
Dawn phenomenon is a blood sugar pattern that happens when blood sugar starts to rise in the early morning hours. The cause isn’t really clear, but the natural release of certain hormones overnight may be involved.
The Somogyi effect is another blood sugar pattern that occurs when your blood sugar tends to go low around 3 AM and then rebounds and goes high. This causes you to wake up with a high morning blood sugar.
A bedtime snack when you have diabetes is a good idea if you feel your blood sugar is in a good range for you and/or you’re at risk for going low overnight. Experiment with different snacks and look for patterns in your blood sugar to determine what is appropriate for you.
For more snack ideas, check out my post on best packaged snacks for diabetes.
And if you want more information about diabetes nutrition, check out my other resources:
- Carb Counting Cheat Sheet
- Free eBook: Eating With Diabetes: A Guide for Beginners
- 5 Best Coffee Creamers for Diabetes: A Dietitian’s Review
Megan is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, and a Certified Insulin Pump Trainer. She has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Iowa State University. She has had type 1 diabetes since she was 11 years old and has taught diabetes education for many years.