If you’ve ever woken up in the morning and been hit with a wave of nausea, you know it’s a pretty miserable way to start the day. But if you’ve ruled out two of the more obvious culprits — pregnancy or a hangover — it can also be confusing.
Morning sickness and one too many glasses of wine are certainly not the only reason you may feel queasy. So, what is making you want to reach for the saltine crackers and ginger ale first thing in the morning? Morning nausea can happen for a variety of reasons, many of which can be easily remedied. Others may be a sign that you need to chat with your healthcare provider. POPSUGAR spoke with experts to learn more about the underlying causes of morning nausea, how you can find relief, and when to seek help.
Why Do I Feel Nauseous in the Morning?
There are several reasons other than pregnancy and hangover that can trigger morning nausea, from what you ate or didn’t eat to your stress levels and anxiety.
It’s Acid Reflux
“Going all night without food can leave stomach acid to cause morning stomach upset,” Jason Womack, MD, associate professor of family medicine at Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, told POPSUGAR. Lying flat at night allows the acid to back up into the esophagus, resulting in what’s commonly known as acid reflux. “Gastritis or acid reflux can be associated with morning nausea,” Dr. Womack said. GERD, an intense form of acid reflux is also associated with nausea.
What you eat before bed can exacerbate the issue. “Many times, timing — eating too late — or food content, like fat-laden or heavily-seasoned foods, can lead to the reflux of stomach acid,” explained Becky Batiste Ferrier, MD, a family medicine physician at North Oaks Primary Care in Hammond, LA. “Quick changes, such as allowing a two-hour window prior to bedtime and the avoidance of potential triggering foods, may alleviate symptoms.” Dr. Womack adds that propping yourself up in bed can help reduce acid reflux, and “you can also try morning antacids for temporary relief.”
You’re Taking a New Medication
“Nausea also can be medication related,” Dr. Batiste Ferrier says, adding that taking medication on an empty stomach or starting a new medication can both cause you to feel sick. If you’re taking a prescription and struggling with morning nausea, talk to your doctor. “All medications and the medication schedule should be reviewed,” Dr. Ferrier tells POPSUGAR.
“Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is one of the most common causes of vertigo,” Dr. Ferrier says. “The symptoms often occur with change in position. In the morning, it happens when a person goes from a lying to a seated and standing position.” Persistent vertigo symptoms should be discussed with a doctor.
It’s Your Blood Sugar
Depending on what you ate, or rather didn’t, in the morning, your blood-sugar levels may be below normal, causing you to feel nauseous, per Manhattan Gastroenterology. So if you tend to feel nauseous in the morning, consider how often you skip or delay breakfast and instead opt for a meal closer to when you wake up. Low blood sugar is also common among people with diabetes and can be impacted by insulin levels and medications. Other symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, and blurred vision, per Cleveland Clinic. If your nausea is persistent or accompanied by any of these symptoms, it’s best to discuss it with a doctor.
You’re Stressed, Tired, or Anxious
Finally, Dr. Batiste Ferrier explains that stress, exhaustion, and anxiety — which often surface on busy mornings — can also manifest in physical symptoms like nausea. If that’s the case, you should talk to your doctor or therapist to address your emotional and mental health.
When to See a Doctor For Morning Nausea
Don’t wait to talk to a doctor about nausea if it becomes a persistent problem. Related and concerning symptoms to be aware of include changes in vision, weakness, vomiting, fever, weight loss, trouble walking, or confusion. “If these are present, it is strongly encouraged for patients to consult their primary-care provider,” Dr. Batiste Ferrier says. “This could potentially be due to more concerning health issues related to possible infectious, structural, or metabolic causes of nausea.”
— Additional reporting by Alexis Jones