When you wake up feeling sick, your mind starts racing. Nobody likes starting the day with an upset stomach, but for women, the symptom can be a bit unnerving. After all, why would nausea come out of nowhere? This can lead to an exciting (or terrifying) conclusion: You’re pregnant. Not so fast. Some instances of “morning sickness” are pretty easily explained by other health conditions. For instance…
1. Sleep’s Role
Our body’s systems rely on circadian rhythm (think of it as an internal clock) to function properly. We release certain chemicals and hormones at specific times of the day, and anomalies can occur when this pattern is disrupted. The digestive system can be severely affected when the circadian cycle is disturbed. One study indicated that disrupted sleeping patterns can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, overproduction of stomach acid, and peptic ulcers.
2. Morning Lows
You could be waking up feeling nauseated in the morning because of low blood sugar. You don’t have to have diabetes to experience issues related to blood sugar levels. A dip in blood sugar in the morning could be caused by not eating enough the night before. Common symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) include dizziness, weakness, anxiety, and nausea. You might not feel hungry, but eating a snack or a light breakfast in the mornings should help get rid of those queasy feelings.
3. Vicious Circle
Sometimes feeling sick in the morning doesn’t have anything to do with your gut at all. Our digestive system and brain are strongly connected to each other. When we feel mentally stressed, our bellies can bear the brunt. “The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion,” writes renowned physician Anthony L. Komaroff of Harvard University. “Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation—all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut.” If you’re feeling nervous for a job interview or worrying about missing a flight, you might wake up with a sensitive stomach. Try winding down before bedtime with a bit of meditation. (And don’t start worrying about the nausea, too!)
4. When and What You Eat
Eating too much at night can also cause problems. High-fat meals take longer to digest, causing your stomach to produce more acid. This additional acid can cause feelings of nausea as well as heartburn. If you have to eat a late dinner, try to make it as light as possible, and don’t overeat. Stick to fresh options, steering clear of overly processed foods.
Know when to see the doctor.
It’s important to listen and pay attention to your body. If you experience nausea on a regular basis, despite having a healthy sleep schedule and diet, see a physician. Symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss, or regular headaches could be signs of something serious, so don’t ignore them. Pregnancy is, of course, a common cause of nausea in the morning. However, it’s not a constant; about 30 percent of women never experience nausea of any kind, so morning sickness certainly isn’t the defining feature of pregnancy. If you’re concerned about a potential pregnancy, again, see your doctor—there’s no reason to take chances.