Waking up is not always the pastel-colored beautiful image from a Disney movie with tiny birds serenading you by the window. It’s not every morning you open your eyes only to feel well-rested, refreshed, and ready to live your day to its fullest. Sometimes, you might wake up feeling terrible from the get-go, and one of the most repugnant things to experience is nausea in the morning.
In its essence, nausea is feeling like you’re about to vomit – actual vomiting might follow, but it’s not a rule. The sickness is often accompanied by an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach. While a single occurrence is usually nothing to worry about, waking up nauseous for a prolonged period of time significantly affects your well-being.
The good news is, the causes of this issue are clearly identified. The bad news is… there’s a whole bunch of contenders.
- 1. The Elephants in the Room: Pregnancy and Hangover
- 1.1. Good for Baby’s Health – Not so Much for Your Mood
- 1.2. The Life of the Party, the Agony of the Morning
- 2. Other Possible Causes for Nausea in the Morning
- 2.1. Stress or Anxiety
- 2.2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease... Or, simply, GERD
- 2.3. Changes in Blood Sugar Levels
- 2.4. Inner Ear Infection
- 3. Before You Go
The Elephants in the Room: Pregnancy and Hangover
When someone wonders ‘why do I feel nauseous in the morning?’, the majority of people have one out of two answers to offer. If you’re a female, we could bet good money that someone will mention pregnancy in the first five minutes. As for morning sickness in men, most would assume you had a little bit too much fun the night before.
Good for Baby’s Health – Not so Much for Your Mood
It’s true that morning nausea is probably one of the most well-known symptoms of pregnancy, along with missing menstruations and untypically sensitive breasts. Statistics show that four out of every five pregnant women experience nausea in the morning.
For some unfortunate ones, it’s not just a morning thing, either. However, most women will notice this symptom disappearing on its own by week fourteen at the latest.
According to scientists, bouts of sickness are actually meant to protect the baby in the early stages of pregnancy, as they are often triggered by smells and tastes of something potentially harmful. Have you ever noticed that no other pregnant mammal has nausea in the morning? The secret lies in them having a much narrower diet, which also means less potential threats.
Still, knowing it’s good for the baby doesn’t make us magically enjoy morning nausea. It’s still an unpleasant feeling that can stand in the way of you enjoying your time or being productive at work. Here are a few simple tips that you might find useful for dealing with morning sickness:
- Try to identify the exact products that make you feel sick. These differ from woman to woman, and it might even be something you were a fan of before you got pregnant! The sooner you learn your weaknesses, the easier it becomes to avoid them.
- Eating your food cold may help, as it normally doesn’t have such a strong smell as hot dishes. Consuming it in smaller portions might also reduce the urge to vomit, as the stomach acid has something to work on, but you’re not too full either.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and fluids: both tiredness and dehydration will add to the sickening feeling. Consider getting blackout curtains or a sleeping mask to completely block out the surroundings at night.
- Some swear ginger helps immensely, and while it doesn’t work the same for everyone, there’s no harm in trying. It’s not pricey, and it only takes a few seconds to grate some into your food or beverages. Alternatively, you can purchase ground ginger pills at the pharmacy.
- If nausea in the morning gets extremely intense and results in you losing weight and feeling dizzy, consult your doctor as soon as possible: you might have hyperemesis gravidarum, which can (and should) be treated by medical professionals.
By the way – did you know morning sickness in men is also a thing? While the Couvade syndrome does sound like some kind of weird joke, it’s actually not. Also known as sympathy pain, it can cause nausea in the morning, weight gains, and even postpartum depression. Scientists believe the cause for the syndrome is purely emotional: when combined, empathy and anxiety can truly do wonders.
The Life of the Party, the Agony of the Morning
Most of us have been there. You’re having a great time with your mates, hours seem to be flying by… And so do pints. Or glasses. Or shots. No matter your drink of choice, your body will not be happy the next day.
According to studies, most young people spend the night drinking more than they initially intended. If that sounds like you – get ready to welcome a headache, fatigue, and nausea in the morning. Your well-being will truly be sabotaged for a while. Well, at least you’re not missing any teeth like that guy from ‘The Hangover’ movie, right?
The trouble with a hangover is that it’s a set of symptoms caused by a set of causes:
- The levels of sugar and salt in your blood fall
- Your blood vessels expand
- The amount of stomach acid and urine produced skyrockets
As a variety of different organs are affected, you have to deal with everything separately. This means there can be no magic pill or trick to make all the discomfort go away at once. And while there’s a ton of medicines that help with headaches and fatigue can be beaten by simply forcing yourself to get out and do stuff, it’s a bit trickier to treat nausea.
Of course, the easiest way to prevent sickness is by limiting your alcohol intake. After all, with nausea in the morning, your body is simply trying to get rid of the toxins you deliberately overfilled it with. Unfortunately, chances are, it’s too late to follow that advice! If you already woke up with terrible morning nausea as a reminder of a fun night, there are few things that might help.
Most experts agree you should start by restoring your electrolyte level by drinking an electrolyte beverage instead of plain water. You can choose a sports drink like Gatorade or get a special rehydration drink like Pedialyte. Another good option is coconut water, which is also less sugary than the previously mentioned beverages.
While some people swear greasy food is the best way to beat hangovers, you should be careful with what you eat! When you experience nausea in the morning, snack on foods that do not irritate your stomach. Bananas, rice, yogurt or applesauce are usually the safest bets. Having some mild-flavored soup (such as chicken noodle) can also help you restore your salt levels and provide some comfort in a stressful time.
Just like pregnant ladies, you can try calming your stomach with ginger, be it a cup of ginger tea, a few spiced cookies, or a pill. Another herbal option is peppermint, which relieves stomach spasms (and also helps with that nasty hangover breath).
Other Possible Causes for Nausea in the Morning
Both pregnancy and hangover have one thing in common: they usually don’t make you wonder ‘why do I feel nauseous in the morning?’. You know full well what that sickening feeling means and why it’s there. However, there’s a multitude of other reasons to experience nausea in the morning that are way less known – and it’s impossible to deal with an issue when you can’t identify the root of it.
Stress or Anxiety
In the XXI century, barely anyone has the luxury of living a calm and unhurried life. Constantly on the run and aiming for the stars, modern people are also under constant pressure. No wonder almost twenty percent of them experience serious anxiety issues. One of its forms is morning anxiety, which strikes as you’re getting ready to start your day.
Among other unnerving symptoms, anxiety often results in nausea in the morning. Luckily, there are multiple ways to relieve stress before getting on with your usual schedule. First and foremost, allow yourself to wake up gently instead of jumping straight out of bed.
An alarm that wakes you up suddenly and harshly is not the best choice, as it can trigger a fear response in your brain. Try to choose a milder signal and set your alarm a bit earlier to give yourself a few extra minutes to stretch with no hurry.
Some swear they cannot wake up without a cup of coffee. Are you one of the self-proclaimed espresso addicts, too? Even if you are, in the case of stress-induced nausea in the morning, swap it for a glass of juice or lemon water. Not only is caffeine known for making you all jittery, but it can also irritate your stomach lining, making the sickness even worse.
A lot of us start our day by checking our accounts on social media. Sadly, increased usage of social networks has been proven to have a direct relation with the risk of anxiety. If you can relate to this, a so-called social media cleanse can be a great way to relieve pressure. We would also advise you to try out various other techniques to relieve stress in the long term, such as moderate exercise, meditation, or seeing a therapist.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease... Or, simply, GERD
You might know this condition as acid reflux – a condition in which stomach acid reaches the upper part of your gullet. This causes an acidy taste to appear in the back of your mouth, which can result in a sore throat, painful swallowing, and even teeth problems. Other common symptoms of GERD include heartburn, chest pain, and nausea in the morning.
Truth be told, with GERD, you might experience that sickening feeling in any part of the day. Still, morning nausea is the most common, as you spend your night in a horizontal position. This makes it easier for the stomach acid to wander up your body and cause the irritating effect. Interestingly enough, GERD is rarely a reason for morning sickness in men: statistics show that acid reflux affects women more often.
If you suspect you might have acid reflux, antacids might help. However, you shouldn’t take any before consulting your physician. Before that, try to relieve the symptoms by changing your sleeping position. Instead of lying completely flat on the mattress, try to keep your head a bit higher than the body. This will make it harder for the stomach acid to reach the upper areas.
Another thing you can do to help yourself is to avoid eating right before bed. If you finish your last meal at least a few hours before heading to the sleepy land, there shouldn’t be a buildup of stomach acid to cause the issue of nausea in the morning. In addition to that, it can improve the quality of your sleep.
Changes in Blood Sugar Levels
A few hours after having a meal, the sugar level of a healthy person should be somewhere under 140 mg/dL. Upon waking up, it’s less than 100 mg/dL (assuming you didn’t get up to finish that tub of Ben & Jerry's at 3 AM).
Now, when the numbers fall to 70 mg/dL or lower, most people start experiencing the signs of hypoglycemia. Nausea in the morning is among the most prevalent ones, as it’s rather common for blood sugar levels to plummet after a night of not consuming any food.
If you believe this is the case for you waking up nauseous, dealing with it is simple – you just have to find a way to raise your blood glucose level. Liquids are absorbed quicker than solid foods, which means one of your best options is 100% fruit juice. There are over 20 grams of sugar in a single 8-ounce glass of 100% orange juice – and it also counts as one of your 5-a-day!
Inner Ear Infection
While it’s true that these two things might sound unrelated, waking up nauseous can be a sign of an inner ear infection, also known as labyrinthitis. The symptoms of this condition might include hearing loss or constant ringing in your ears. Of course, you could expect that. But why do I feel nauseous in the morning if the issue has to do with my ears and not stomach, you ask?
The thing is, your inner ear is also where your vestibular nerves are. Thanks to them, you can keep your balance and stand firmly on the ground at all times. That is why inner ear infections can also result in vertigo.
Remember those times when you were a child and spun around for minutes only so stop and experience dizziness? That’s very similar to what a patient with vertigo feels. If you even spun around for long enough, you also know that having trouble in balance control can easily lead to nausea and vomiting.
Curiously enough, pressure on your inner ear can also be caused by a blocked nose or sinus congestion, so if you’re experiencing some common cold, make sure to treat that first. Lucky for you, that’s easy to get over without medical help. Labyrinthitis, on the other hand, is a serious condition.
There is not much you can do apart from discussing it with your doctor and having a physical exam. Depending on the exact infection and its severity, the general practitioner might prescribe you with ear drops or pills.
If it’s been a few weeks and the medicine doesn’t seem to relieve nausea, get an appointment with your ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. As for prevention, there are a few tips you can follow:
- Clean and dry your ears carefully every time you bathe
- Get your vaccines in time and stay away from sick people
- Avoid allergic reactions (use your medication timely if they occur)
- Quit both active and passive smoking
Before You Go
As you can see, nausea in the morning might be caused by a series of different factors. Some of them (e.g., hangover) can be easily prevented, and some cannot be dealt with without seeking medical help.
Whatever the case, knowing your own body is vital: get to the root of your morning nausea and take the necessary measures to get the quality of your life back!
✓ Fact Checked
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5. Ariel Shensa, Jaime E. Sidani, Mary Amanda Dew: 'Social Media Use and Depression and Anxiety Symptoms: A Cluster Analysis'
6. Peter J. Kahrilas: 'Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease'
7. Young Sun Kim, Nayoung Kim: 'Sex and Gender Differences in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease'