If you regularly wake up feeling sick in the morning, you’re probably wondering why. Here are the possible reasons behind your queasiness - and how to sort it.
Waking up in the morning feeling sick does not make for a great start to your day. In fact, it can be a sure fire way to ruin your morning, as you’ll likely spend a while trying to stop the feelings of nausea and then even longer wondering why you felt ill in the first place.
You’ve probably already considered (and googled!) all the options of why you might be feeling unwell – everything from pregnancy to coronavirus. But it might be something as simple as low blood sugar, and all you need is a healthy breakfast.
“Feeling sick in the morning could be down to a number of reasons.” Nutritionist Resource member, Sonal Shah says. “If it doesn’t happen often, then it could be due to a lack of sleep, anxiety or your current diet.”
So if you’re struggling with feel queasy when you wake up but don’t know what’s causing it, take a look below. We’ve asked the experts why exactly we are feeling under the weather when we wake up and what we can do to stop it.
Why do I feel sick in the morning?
While feeling sick in the morning is really unpleasant and doesn’t make us relish getting out of bed, it’s not hugely likely that it’s something to worry about in the long term. But in some cases, like an inner ear infection or pregnancy, it’s important to recognise the other symptoms and seek help from a medical professional as soon as possible. These are the reasons you might be feeling sick in the morning…
“Feeling sick in the morning when waking up may be related to an imbalance of hormones in the body.” Claire Barnes, Technical Advisor and Nutritional Therapist at Bio-Kult says, “Cortisol, often referred to as our ‘stress hormone’ is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear or stress.
“Naturally, our levels of cortisol should be high in the morning, providing us with that ‘jump-out-bed vibrancy’ to face the day ahead and then gradually reduce during the day so that by the evening we should feel relaxed and ready to settle to sleep again. Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are many obstacles throughout the day that can throw this natural rhythm, upsetting our hormone levels, sleep pattern and metabolism.”
How to fix it: Claire says the best way to fix this hormone imbalance is to eat set meals at the same time every day and sticking to a good sleeping routine. “Sticking to a routine of falling asleep at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning can also help to keep our hormones and metabolism in balance.
“Importantly, avoid eating late into the evening, stop eating and drinking anything other than water or herbal teas at least 2 hours before going to bed.”
Low blood sugar
You may experience feelings of sickness if your blood sugar level – known as glucose – is too low. This is called hypoglycaemia and happens when the body doesn’t have enough glucose for energy. This mainly affects people with diabetes, especially if they take insulin. Although uncommon, hypoglycaemia in people without diabetes can be due to alcohol intake or fasting.
How to fix it: If you have other symptoms of hypoglycaemia such as fatigue, headaches and dizziness, see your GP.
To boost your blood sugar level when you wake, keep something to eat on your bedside table. “Ideally you want something that’s going to bring your blood sugars up a little bit and also maintain them there. So a savoury carbohydrate type snack would be the best thing to have,” says dietician Sophie Medlin.
Disturbed sleep wreaks havoc with our circadian rhythm. This leads to exhaustion that can make you feel sick in the morning.
How to fix it:The first step to sleeping better is to establish a good sleep routine.
“Commit to a set wake-up time then work backwards to establish the time at which you need to go to sleep,” says Rob Hobson, author of The Art of Sleeping.
“If your goal is 7.5 hours’ sleep in total, and you aim to wake up at 6.30am, you should be looking to fall asleep at 11pm. A sleep starting point between 9.30pm and 11pm works in sync with the natural flow of your circadian rhythm.”
Also, avoid resist hitting the snooze button when your alarm goes off.
“Falling asleep again will leave you feeling groggy and nauseous because you put your body and brain out of sync with their natural rhythm,” explains Rob.
Dehydration can cause nausea and vomiting, says Aisling Moran, Nutritional Scientist at Thriva.co.
In fact they can often go hand-in-hand, with vomiting often causing dehydration.
How to fix it: “Drinking enough water, particularly if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun or excised very vigorously will help prevent this.” Aisling says, “You might find it hard to drink fluids if you’re feeling sick, so starting with little sips can help.”
Is heartburn making you feel sick in the morning? Acid reflux can cause a burning sensation in the chest, a sour taste in the mouth, burping, and feeling of nausea.
“Whilst many believe excess stomach acid leads to heartburn, latest theories now suggest the symptoms may actually be associated with low levels of stomach acid.” Claire Barnes from Bio-Kult says, “Our stomach acid is our first line of defence against harmful microbes entering the intestines, therefore low stomach acid could potentially lead to bacterial overgrowth and a decreased absorption of important nutrients, such as B vitamins, folate, iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc. As deficiencies of these nutrients could lead to changes in hormone and neurotransmitter production in the body, this can again link back to hormonal imbalances leading to stress, anxiety and feelings of nausea.
“Psychological stress typically triggers a release of hormones and neurotransmitter production in various parts of the body, which ultimately disturbs our gut microbes. An altered gut microbiota can in turn affect the regulation of neurotransmitters and hormones which can lead to a vicious cycle of continual stress and gut microbiota disturbance.”
How to fix it: Avoid eating too close to bedtime and spend some time upright after meals to prevent stomach acids from rising.
Sleeping with your head and upper chest elevated can also help reduce symptoms in the morning.
Antacid tablets can also to neutralise stomach acids.
Feeling sick in the morning could be down to anxiety – often made worse by hormonal changes. According to Anxiety UK, around 98 per cent of women feel anxious during menopause, due to oestrogen and progesterone fluctuations and changes in cortisol levels.
How to fix it: “Pharmaceutical quality lavender oil has been shown to improve the symptoms of anxiety, without sedative side-effects,” says Kathy Abernethy from the British Menopause Society. Try Kalms Lavender One-A-Day Capsules to ease morning anxiety.
Inner ear infection
As well as feeling sick in the morning, do you have dizziness and a loss of balance? If so it could be Labyrinthitis.
This inner ear condition is cause by inflammation of the nerve that sends balance information to the brain. Is usually triggered by a virus such as a cold or flu, or, more rarely, a bacterial infection, explains dizziness expert Professor Adolfo Bronstein.
How to fix it: An anti-sickness drug keep the nausea at bay for two to three days and, once that works, you’ll be encouraged to get up and about rather than stay in bed.
There are up to 47 symptoms we can suffer with a hangover, and feeling sick in the morning is certainly one of them.
“Alcohol damages the stomach and intestine lining and so can both give you diarrhoea and leave you feeling nauseous,” says Professor David Nutt, doctor and author of Drink?: The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health.
How to fix it: Sleep and hydration will make you feel better, but there’s no ‘quick fix’ cure for a hangover. You can avoid one by pacing yourself when you drink, reducing the amount you drink in a session, and alternating water with alcoholic drinks.
Feeling sick in the morning – with or without vomiting – could also be a key sign that you’re pregnant. Around 80 per cent of pregnant women experience morning nausea, which tends to start between week 4 and 9 of a pregnancy.
How to fix it: Take a home pregnancy test if there’s a chance that you could pregnant.
“Morning sickness often eases after the first three months of pregnancy,” says Maggie Evans, healthcare practitioner for Spatone. “You may find eating a little of the following foods after you wake, helps.”
- Anything containing ginger in, including ginger biscuits, ginger tea and ginger beer.
- Fizzy drinks, especially lemonade.
- Dry crackers.
Is feeling sick a Covid symptom?
What to eat when you feel sick
While feeling sick in the morning normally goes away on its own, there are some things you can do to help subside it.
The NHS recommends:
- Get plenty of fresh air – go for a walk outside or open a window in your home.
- Distract yourself – listen to music or watch a film, for example.
- Have a cold drink – some people find fizzy drinks best, be sure to sip them slowly though.
- Drink ginger or peppermint tea.
- Eat foods containing ginger – such as ginger biscuits.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals – rather than larger ones, spaced apart by hours at a time.
To this, Sonal Shah adds, “Mild nausea can be remedied with changes to your diet and by avoiding eating larger meals right before bedtime which can trigger a blood sugar crash which causes nausea.
Have ginger tea made with fresh ginger or ready made and something dry to eat like toast, granola or some fruit if you can, as the hunger itself and low blood sugar levels can lead to nausea. Avoid coffee if feeling sick as this can dehydrate the body more.”
So while feeling sick in the morning might be unpleasant, it’s often easy to fix and you’ll be feeling right as rain in no time.