Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Nocturnal hypoglycaemia in patients receiving conventional treatment with insulin.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 291 doi: (Published 10 August 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:376
  1. S Pramming,
  2. B Thorsteinsson,
  3. I Bendtson,
  4. B Rønn,
  5. C Binder


    The prevalence of nocturnal biochemical hypoglycaemia--that is, blood glucose concentrations below 3 mmol/l (55 mg/100 ml)--was evaluated in a random sample of 58 insulin dependent diabetics receiving twice daily insulin. Seventeen patients had at least one blood glucose value below 3 mmol/l (55 mg/100 ml) and five a value below 2 mmol/l (36 mg/100 ml) during the night. Both bedtime (2300) and fasting morning (0700) blood glucose concentrations were significantly lower in the group with nocturnal hypoglycaemia compared with the group without (p less than 0.00001). If the bedtime blood glucose concentration was below 6 mmol/l (108 mg/100 ml) the risk of nocturnal hypoglycaemia was 80% (95% confidence limits 51-96%). If the bedtime blood glucose concentration was above 6 mmol/l the likelihood of hypoglycaemia not occurring during the night was 88% (74-96%). The mean glycosylated haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) concentration in the group with nocturnal biochemical hypoglycaemia (8.2 (range 5.0-12.4)%) was significantly lower than that in the group without (9.4(7.0-14.2)%) (p less than 0.02). The prevalence of nocturnal hypoglycaemia in the patients receiving twice daily insulin (29%) was compared with that in 15 patients receiving thrice daily insulin (47%) and was not found to be significantly different. The likelihood of this risk being greater with thrice daily insulin was, however, 88%. No patient with nocturnal biochemical hypoglycaemia woke up during the night with symptomatic hypoglycaemia. Nocturnal biochemical hypoglycaemia is common during twice daily treatment with insulin, and low values of HbA1c might be associated with a higher risk of such hypoglycaemia. The blood glucose concentration at bedtime is a significant predictor of nocturnal biochemical hypoglycaemia, and HbA1c values might be of help in identifying patients at risk.