Why Do I Have Heartburn in the Morning?
Starting your day off on the right foot can make all the difference as you prepare for what’s ahead. After finishing up your morning routine, planning out your schedule and preparing breakfast, you’re ready to conquer the day. However, dealing with an unexpected bout of heartburn after waking up can quite literally leave a bad taste in your mouth, especially if you don’t know what’s causing it.
What causes heartburn in the morning? Continue reading to learn more about morning heartburn and what you can do to stop it.
What Does Heartburn Feel Like?
If you are waking up with a feeling of discomfort in your chest, you might be dealing with heartburn. Heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest that can also affect your neck and throat.1 You may also experience chest pains when laying down or a hot, acidic taste in the back of your throat.1 Heartburn symptoms can last anywhere from between a few minutes to several hours.1
Although occasional heartburn is normal, regular or severe heartburn may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.1 Morning heartburn can also be a sign of GERD. In a study done on patients with GERD, 48.7% percent of the participants experienced acid reflux within 20 minutes of waking up, and 17.9% experienced it an hour after waking up.2 Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about GERD and how you can get a diagnosis.
What Could Be Causing My Morning Heartburn?
Heartburn happens when the lower esophageal sphincter, or the valve that connects the stomach and the esophagus is weakened and causes stomach acid to rise up the esophagus.3 This can happen for a number of reasons in the morning, including the following:
1. Eating Right Before Bedtime
It’s hard to resist a good midnight snack every now and then, but eating before going to sleep is a common cause of heartburn at night.4 Heartburn occurs after eating before bedtime because the food is not fully digested yet, and the natural force of gravity can push the food back up your esophagus.4 Sitting and standing allows food to move through the esophagus into the stomach for it to be digested.4 If you eat before sleeping and experience heartburn when you wake up, it’s possible that the undigested food from the night before is still around to bother you in the morning.
It takes the stomach around four to five hours to fully empty after a meal, so eating at least three hours before bedtime is advised.4 It may also help to raise the head of your bed a few inches to make your head and chest higher than your feet, enabling the food to go down the esophagus more easily.1
2. The Foods You Eat
What you’re eating for breakfast can also be causing your morning heartburn. The most common cause of heartburn is food that is acidic or high in fat.3 Unfortunately, many popular breakfast food items fall in this category. While a plate of crispy bacon and a glass of orange juice sound great, fatty meats like bacon and sausage and citrus juices are both known causes of heartburn.1 Caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea can help you wake up in the morning, but they can trigger heartburn as well.3 Popular brunch cocktails such as mimosas, Bloody Marys and Irish coffees are fun to enjoy on the weekends, but the alcohol in them can be causing your heartburn.1 Plus, these drinks often contain additional heartburn triggers including citrus juice, tomato juice and coffee.1
Eating too much and too quickly can also lead to heartburn.1 If you find that you are experiencing heartburn after breakfast, it may be helpful to slow down and eat less.
3. High Levels of Stress
Mornings can be a stressful time, especially if you are anxious about an upcoming presentation at work or a test at school. Whatever the cause is, high levels of stress can be another reason why you are getting heartburn in the morning.1 Smoking cigarettes to cope with stress can also lead to heartburn, as nicotine can weak the lower esophageal sphincter.1 To help relieve stress-related heartburn, start your day with relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation to give yourself some peace of mind.
4. Exercising After Eating
Starting your day with some exercise is a very beneficial habit, but eating before a workout can be the reason why you have heartburn. Exercising any sooner than two hours after eating can trigger heartburn.1 Try not to eat too soon before your morning workout, and drink plenty of water to help your body digest food and avoid dehydration.1
5. Being Overweight or Pregnant
Being overweight or pregnant can cause heartburn due to added pressure on the abdomen and stomach.3 Losing weight as needed can help relieve general heartburn symptoms.1 Consuming yogurt or milk can work as a natural remedy for heartburn symptoms related to pregnancy.5
The medications you take in the morning may also be causing your heartburn. Certain medications, especially anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin can be heartburn triggers.1 Talk to your healthcare provider about managing heartburn symptoms that come from medications.
Quick Tips for Relieving Morning Heartburn
Because heartburn is most commonly caused by your eating habits, making some changes to your breakfast foods may be a good start for relieving your morning heartburn. Some foods that can help your heartburn include high-fiber, alkaline and watery foods.6 A bowl of oatmeal topped with banana slices or a few slices of watermelon would make a great addition to your healthy, heartburn-free breakfast.6 Taking antacids after eating can also help to reduce the amount of stomach acid and help with heartburn symptoms.1 Try products like TUMS Naturals and TUMS Chewy Bites to find relief from heartburn symptoms in the form of a delicious flavored tablet. Use as directed.
- Heartburn. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview Accessed 9/15/2022.
- Risers’ Reflux – an eye-opening experience. National Library of Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20059700/ Accessed 9/15/2022.
- Heartburn and Acid Reflux: What You Need to Know. Cedars-Sinai. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/what-causes-heartburn-and-acid-reflux.html Accessed 9/15/2022.
- Why Does Your Heartburn Always Seem Worse at Night? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-does-your-heartburn-always-seem-worse-at-night/ Accessed 9/15/2022.
- Heartburn During Pregnancy. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12011-heartburn-during-pregnancy Accessed 9/15/2022.
- GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/gerd-diet-foods-that-help-with-acid-reflux-heartburn Accessed 9/15/2022.