The causes of night nausea are often the same as those that contribute to nausea during the day. Some of the most common causes of nighttime nausea are stress, morning sickness, medication side effects, and viral or bacterial infections. An individual may also experience night nausea because of heartburn or indigestion. In some cases, a person may also feel nauseous during the night because he has overindulged in an alcoholic beverage. Though night nausea may not be cause for alarm, a person with persistent nausea may do well to seek advice from a doctor.
Stress is one of the most common causes of night nausea. During the daytime hours, many people are too busy to notice the effects of stress and anxiety. At night, however, when things are quiet and they have an opportunity to rest, some people become overwhelmed by worries and stresses. This may not only cause a person to become nauseated, but may also make it difficult for him to sleep.
Morning sickness is another frequent cause of night nausea. Morning sickness, which is marked by nausea and vomiting, is a common symptom of early pregnancy. Many people expect morning sickness symptoms to be troublesome only in the morning, but are surprised to learn that it can affect a pregnant woman at any time of the day or night. It may even be worse at night because a woman’s stomach often feels empty at this time of day, which can contribute to feelings of queasiness.
Gastrointestinal illnesses that develop because of viruses and bacteria may also cause a person to experience night nausea. For example, a person who has contracted a stomach virus may experience symptoms at night. Such symptoms can develop at any time of the day or night, however. The nighttime onset of nausea may simply be related to when the person contracted the virus. If, for instance, a person has contracted a virus during the day that has an eight-hour incubation period, chances are good that he will begin to feel nauseous during the night.
In some cases, indigestion and heartburn may lead to nausea at night. An individual may, for example, eat something at dinner that causes him to have an upset stomach. In some cases, symptoms don’t occur right away, but may lead to nausea at some point during the night. Heartburn, which is marked by stomach acid that moves into the esophagus, may also cause nausea at night. In fact, those who go to bed within three hours of eating may be more likely to experience this cause of nausea.
An individual may also experience night nausea after overindulging in alcoholic beverages. In some cases, a person will begin to feel nauseous soon after drinking to excess. In other cases, however, a person may go to sleep and wake up to feelings of nausea later.
While eating a large meal, particularly one including fatty foods, shortly before going to bed is a common cause for night nausea, going to bed hungry is also a potential cause. Not eating for an extended period results in a buildup of stomach acid, thus promoting nausea and acid reflux. Additionally, hunger pangs can be accompanied by a sensation of faintness and dizziness. Besides an empty stomach, not eating enough before bed can lead to low blood sugar, and you may wake up sweaty, shaky and dizzy.
For both of these, a common solution is to have a small snack about an hour before bed, or—if you also experience nausea related to hunger throughout the day—spreading out your daily food intake to multiple smaller meals. Adjusting your diet to get a better balance of nutrients can also help.
Side Effects of Medicine
Nausea is a side effect of many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. Some of these don't affect the GI tract, but rather neural pathways that can be associated with feelings of nausea. These include, but aren't limited to:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflamatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and naproxene (Aleve)
- opioid-based painkillers
- antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- vitamin and mineral supplements
If you're asking yourself, "why do I feel nauseous at night?", and you recently started taking one of these medicines shortly before bed, that's the likely culprit. Talk with your doctor about alternative options, such as adjusting dosage size and frequency or switching medications. You may also start taking your medicine with food, unless you specifically need to take it on an empty stomach.
Sinusitis and Postnasal Drip
In some cases, sinusitis can induce nausea at night or in the morning. This can happen in two ways. First, congestion in the sinuses can put pressure on the inner ears as mucus builds up and fails to drain. As the inner ears are key to the body's sense of balance, this disturbance sometimes produces a sensation of dizziness, which in turn leads to nausea and vomiting. Secondly, sinusitis causes postnasal drip as mucus accumulates in the back of your throat. When swallowed, this mucus upsets the stomach.
Because postnasal drip increases at night, coinciding with a reclined posture and less food in the stomach, nausea caused by sinusitis is more prominent before bed and after waking. Fortunately, treating sinusitis alleviates both postnasal drip and the resultant night nausea. Acute cases are managed with decongestants and saline rinses. Chronic sinusitis may require antibiotics.
Ulcers are painful open sores that are slow to heal or prone to recurring. They occur on most body tissues for various reasons—peptic ulcers in the GI tract are a common culprit for nausea. Other symptoms include heartburn, stomach aches, persistent feelings of fullness and an intolerance of fatty or spicy foods. Peptic ulcers can be caused by infection with H. pylori, as well as long-term use of NSAIDs. If you're experiencing these other symptoms, talk to your doctor for advice on treatment, since the solution depends on what the root cause is—antibiotic regimens and adjustment of your dosage, respectively. Acid blockers can alleviate pain from ulcers and, in combination with these other treatments, provide relief.
While treatment is minimally invasive early on, unchecked ulcers can develop into much more severe complications, such as scarring of stomach or intestinal tissue and internal bleeding, that require hospitalization and surgery to manage. If you feel nauseous when you wake up and suspect ulcers may be a cause, don't hesitate to contact a doctor.
A gastrointestinal disease with varied, often unidentifiable causes, gasteoparesis is a condition wherein the stomach empties itself of food too slowly, allowing partially digested food and stomach acid to build up. Gasteoparesis occurs commonly in people with diabetes, as well as in a small percentage of people that have undergone stomach surgery. Associated symptoms besides nausea are heartburn, vomiting, bloating, weight loss and malnutrition. Because this can be a serious condition due to the lack of nutrient uptake that results, consult a doctor for diagnosis if you suspect you may have gasteoparesis.
The causes of night nausea, as with nausea in general, vary greatly and can range from mild conditions to potentially life-threatening ones. While over-the-counter medicine for managing nausea can stave it off enough for you to sleep, it doesn't act as treatment in itself. Additionally, oftentimes the nausea is an indicator of something else amiss. If you find yourself asking, "why do I feel nauseous when I wake up?" too often, consider your lifestyle and potential factors there, as well as any other symptoms you have that you can identify.