Establishing a morning routine is a great way to set up your day for success. But waking up nauseous each morning has the potential to derail your plan for healthy habits.
If you feel sick when you wake up, your nighttime eating habits, stress levels or medications may be to blame for your early morning nausea.
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Read on to learn why exactly you might be waking up nauseous and how to fix your symptoms.
1. You Ate Certain Foods Too Close to Bedtime
The foods you eat before bed can play a big role in how your body feels the following morning, says gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, MD. Eating a heavy meal late in the evening can cause digestive unrest, leading to nausea in the a.m.
This is especially true if you struggle with food allergies or intolerances, like lactose intolerance, Dr. Sonpal says. Even if your sensitivities don't necessarily cause nausea during the day, your stomach may not be able to process your meal while you're sleeping, wreaking havoc the next morning.
Fix it: Give your body a break from digestion while you sleep. Try to eat your last meal about three hours before bedtime, per the Mayo Clinic. And you might try your best to avoid any hard-to-digest foods in the evening, too, so your body doesn't need to break them down overnight. Fried or high-fat foods, dairy products and spicy foods are common culprits of indigestion.
"If a person finds themself nauseous in the mornings, they should stick to light and plain meals for dinner and snacks prior to going to bed," Dr. Sonpal says.
Though it may seem obvious, always check the expiration date of your foods, Dr. Sonpal suggests. Eating expired foods may not necessarily cause you to vomit but can lead to nausea.
2. You're Not Eating Enough Before Bed
On the other hand, hunger can also be a reason you're waking up nauseous, Dr. Sonpal says. Your blood sugar drops when you don't eat any food over extended periods of time. Low blood sugar can cause you to feel dizzy when you wake up, faint or nauseated.
If you wake up feeling shaky, extremely hungry or sweaty, you may be experiencing mild low blood sugar, according to the University of Michigan Medicine.
Blood sugar low enough to cause symptoms is rare in people who don't have diabetes. If you're experiencing more severe symptoms like muscle twitching or confusion, talk to a doctor.
If you already have a diabetes diagnosis, you could be experiencing ketoacidosis, which causes your body to produce excess blood acids called ketones, Dr. Sonpal says. When your body floods with ketones, it can also lead to nausea. Your doctor can help you determine the best way to handle these symptoms.
Fix it: You'll still want to avoid eating too soon before bedtime, but pick your foods wisely and eat slowly to help your body feel fuller, Dr. Sonpal says.
Aim to get a good balance of macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat) to help you feel full, and eat plenty of vegetables. Veggies are rich in fiber, which helps control blood sugar levels.
3. You Drank Too Much Alcohol
Also, try to avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime, per the Mayo Clinic. This can not only cause nausea but may even disrupt your sleep.
A night out on the town may lead to a painful hangover. Some of the most common symptoms after excessive alcohol consumption are nausea, vomiting and stomach pain, according to Jesus Lizarzaburu, MD, a family medicine physician in Yorktown, Virginia.
Too much alcohol can cause dehydration (more on that below), inflammation and electrolyte imbalance, not to mention is can mess with your sleep, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Fix it: If you're looking for a hangover remedy, stick to the basics: Drink water to rehydrate your body, get plenty of sleep to fight off your fatigue and eat some carbohydrates like crackers or toast to boost your blood sugar and reduce nausea. (No, the "hair of the dog" will not actually help you feel better.)
If you have a nagging headache that won't go away, try taking an aspirin, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Of course, if you're regularly waking up nauseous after drinking, you might want to think about cutting back on alcohol.
4. You're Dehydrated
Whether or not you drink enough water can play a major part in how your body functions. Dehydration happens when there's an insufficient amount of water in the body, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Pro tip: If you're feeling thirsty, you've already reached the point of mild dehydration. Severe cases of dehydration can cause nausea, a rapid pulse, confusion, muscle twitching and other symptoms that warrant talking to a doctor.
While mild signs of dehydration don't usually include nausea, nausea and vomiting can worsen dehydration because you lose even more fluid than you're taking in, Dr. Lizarzaburu explains.
Fix it: Drinking enough water throughout the day is a simple way to stay on top of your hydration. The amount of water you need daily depends on several factors including weight, activity level and environment, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While you'll often hear the advice to have at least 8 glasses of water per day, it's not quite that simple. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend the average adult should have about 11.5 to 15.5 cups per day, but that includes water from foods as well as other drinks like coffee and tea.
5. You Have Acid Reflux
Acid reflux happens when your stomach acid flows back into your esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth and stomach), according to the Mayo Clinic, causing pain and irritation.
"[Acid reflux] leads to a burning sensation in the throat and nausea," Dr. Sonpal says. "When sleeping in a flat position, acid reflux can be more prominent in the morning, rather than right after eating."
Fix it: Cut fatty foods like cheese and red meats out of your evening meals or snacks, Dr. Sonpal recommends.
"Heavy foods like these cause the stomach to not digest as quickly as before," he says. "Thus, the cream and meat sit in the stomach acid for longer periods of time and lead to bloating and nausea."
6. You're Anxious or Stressed
Anxiety and stress can cause nausea, especially if these emotions are keeping you up at night.
When you're anxious, your body releases hormones that can affect your digestion, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. This chemical imbalance can cause various stomach issues, including nausea.
"Mental health and poor sleep patterns are also closely associated with morning nausea," Dr. Sonpal says. "Anxiety does not only directly affect a person's mental wellbeing but their physical health as well. Stress has a direct correlation to an uneasy stomach and should not be ruled out of the equation."
Fix it: It's definitely easier said than done, but it's important to reduce anxiety and stress in your day-to-day life. In some cases, that can include consulting a mental health professional or using free mental health resources as needed.
Also, try to practice healthy sleep habits, Dr. Sonpal says. Staying up late at night, especially for work purposes, can contribute to anxiety or stress, potentially leading to nausea when you wake up.
7. You Have a Migraine
Waking up with a migraine is more than just a headache. It's an intense throbbing pain that can last for hours or even days, thwarting your plans for the day. Migraines are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound, per the Mayo Clinic. According to the American Migraine Foundation, the most common time for a migraine to occur is in the early morning.
"Usually, people tend to be dehydrated by the early morning and dehydration can be a trigger for headaches and migraines," Dr. Lizarzaburu says. "Nausea can be present with migraines as a package deal for some people."
Fix it: Migraines can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes, per Dr. Lizarzaburu. If you're looking for immediate relief, over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen or aspirin can reduce symptoms.
Other proven strategies to manage migraines include sitting in a dark room, blocking out loud noises and staying cool, according to the Mayo Clinic. Try keeping track of your migraines with a journal; noting when your migraines are occurring, how long they last and the symptoms you're experiencing can help you identify patterns and potential triggers, per the Mayo Clinic.
8. You're Constipated
Feeling "backed up" can no doubt be uncomfortable. Constipation happens when bowel movements become irregular and difficult to pass, per the Cleveland Clinic. On top of that, nausea and stomach cramps are common symptoms of constipation.
Certain lifestyle factors can be causes of constipation including a lack of fibrous foods, not drinking enough water, a lack of exercise, high stress levels and changes in your regular routine. That said, mild cases of constipation can be treated with self-care.
Fix it: Constipation can be avoided by including fiber in your diet, drinking enough fluids, staying active and managing stress, per the Mayo Clinic. For fast relief, try sipping on a hot drink like tea or coffee, or take a laxative to speed up the process. Avoid high-fat foods like processed meats and fast food when constipated, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Severe cases of constipation can be caused by serious medical and health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diabetes. If constipation continues after self-care methods, it's best to talk to your doctor, Dr. Lizarzaburu says.
"If you are experiencing chronic nausea, you should schedule an appointment with your family physician to see if there is an underlying serious condition or discuss next steps on options to prevent nausea from occurring," he says.
9. Your Reproductive Health Needs Attention
If you've started a new birth control, it may be the cause of your unwanted a.m. nausea. Nausea, dizziness and bloating are common side effects of combination birth control pills, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In some cases, nausea and vomiting can be a sign of morning sickness, a symptom of early pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Often, morning sickness can be triggered by certain smells or spicy foods, but sometimes it has no trigger at all.
Fix it: If you think your new birth control pills may be causing unwanted side effects, talk to your prescribing doctor to help manage your symptoms or change your medication completely.
If you're experiencing morning sickness or have a late menstrual cycle, you may want to see a doctor or take a personal pregnancy test to see if pregnancy may be causing your morning nausea.
- Mayo Clinic: "What Are Your Sleep Busters?"
- University of Michigan Medicine: "Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar"
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)"
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: "How to Calm an Anxious Stomach: The Brain-Gut Connection"
- Mayo Clinic: "Combination Birth Control Pills"
- Mayo Clinic: "Morning Sickness"
- Mayo Clinic: "Migraine"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Constipation"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Foods for Constipation"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "7 Steps to Cure Your Hangover"
- U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: "Report Sets Dietary Intake Levels for Water, Salt, and Potassium To Maintain Health and Reduce Chronic Disease Risk"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.