There’s nothing worse than waking up from a night’s sweet oblivion and feeling the world start to spin around your head. Even with the perfect cozy blankets and a safe, comfortable sleeping space, you can still feel lightheaded when you wake up. So what gives?
Morning dizziness can often indicate that something is wrong on a larger scale, so it’s super important to be aware of what’s happening inside your body and what it’s trying to communicate with you. Let’s look at some of the reasons you might be feeling dizzy when you wake up.
Dizziness isn’t actually a condition — it’s a symptom of an underlying condition or imbalance. Dizziness can show up as feeling disoriented and off-balance, as feeling faint or lightheaded, or it can be a literal perception of a room spinning around you. It’s easy to dismiss these feelings as simply a part of being tired, but they can often be a warning sign that something else is going on.
Frustratingly, feeling dizzy in the mornings can have a few different root causes. Looking at the choices you’re making in your diet and lifestyle can give you a pretty good indication of where to start. Let’s look at some of the things that can cause dizziness and vertigo when you wake up.
If you have an excess of fluid sloshing about in your head — for instance, if you have a cold, swelling in your sinuses, or an infection — it can literally start to feel like your brain is underwater. When you stand up or change position quickly the fluids in your inner ear can shift, causing a feeling of vertigo.
Dehydration is the biggest cause of morning dizziness. This can be caused by too much heat at night, too much sweating as you sleep or during the day, too much alcohol intake in the evenings, or by simply not consuming enough water and water-rich foods in your diet.
Hypoglycemia is more common in people who take insulin for diabetes, but it can be present in anyone. In addition to morning dizziness, hypoglycemia can manifest as headaches, excessive sweating, and difficulty concentrating.
Certain kinds of hypotension cause your blood pressure to drop when you stand very suddenly. This happens because the blood lags behind in the lower part of your body and takes a moment to regulate circulation back to your brain. Most of the time these episodes only last a minute or two, but if they last much longer than can be a cause for concern.
This is where your breathing is disrupted during your sleep, either from snoring or from swollen sinuses, such as when you have a cold. The disruption in-breath might wake you up completely for a moment or two, or it might just bring you to the edge of waking so that you’re still poorly rested in the morning. Sleep apnea also causes oxygen deprivation in the body, which leads to dizziness.
Several medications can lead to lightheadedness as one of their side effects. Antidepressants, blood pressure medication, and allergy treatments are just a few of the common ones that might affect some people this way. If you’ve recently started taking any new drugs or medicine, it’s worth talking to your doctor and seeing what alternatives they might be able to prescribe.
This seems like an obvious one, but one of the biggest causes of dizziness in the morning is simply not getting enough sleep. Long stretches without sleep, or very broken sleeping patterns at night, can lead to dizziness and confusion and can exacerbate depression and anxiety.
Sometimes our body goes through changes that it doesn’t quite know how to deal with. This includes things like hormone changes as we grow, pregnancy, and transition into menopause. Our appetites can be affected during these times too, which can lead to low blood sugar.
Some infections such as labyrinthitis can lead to inflammation of the inner ear, which is essential for us in maintaining our balance. These most commonly follow in the trail of a cold or flu; ear infections might be accompanied by headaches, ear pain, or ringing in the ears.
It may come as a surprise to absolutely no one that high levels of anxiety get in the way of our ability to get a good night’s sleep. It can also cause dizziness as our bodies become overwhelmed, particularly in the mornings before important or stressful events.
The best way to prevent feelings of dizziness in the mornings is to get a good night’s sleep — easier said than done, we know. Prevent dehydration by drinking lots of water during the day, regulating the temperature of your sleeping area as much as you can, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the hours before you go to bed. If dizziness persists, try keeping a bottle of water near the bed so you can drink a little of it before you get up to face the day.
Try to avoid phones and other electronics right before bed; not only are they anxiety minefields that kick up your stress level more often than not (I’m looking at you, Instagram), the bright blue light of our screens is shown to have a major impact on the quality of our sleep.
Most importantly, try to be aware of what’s happening in your body. Have you been eating properly throughout the day? Are you fighting off a cold? How are your medications making you feel? Is stress causing you to take longer to fall asleep at night? Being mindful of your body is important when you’re looking at possible causes of dizziness and discussing your symptoms with a medical professional.
Most of the time, morning dizziness is either a symptom of an unbalanced lifestyle, such as what you’re eating and drinking or how much pressure you’re under in your waking life, or it’s a symptom of short-term illnesses such as colds, flus, and irritations. If it persists for more than a few minutes at a time and for more than a few days, however, it might be time to get an outside opinion.
Not to freak you out, but persistent dizziness can be a sign of underlying problems like heart failure, severe infections, damaging medications, or brain deterioration. You should always see a doctor if your dizziness is accompanied by extreme headaches, fainting spells, vomiting, muscle pain, or blurry vision, and if the dizziness keeps persisting without any obvious cause. Your doctor will be better able to pinpoint the source of the morning dizziness and prescribe treatments that will help alleviate it.
Dizziness is not an uncommon symptom to experience as you wake up, and most of the time it’s simply a matter of an adjustment in your lifestyle — eating and drinking healthy, managing your stress levels, and taking good care of your body. Stay hydrated, keep tabs on your physical sensations and reactions to your diet and medications, and always make a little time for self-care. When it persists, however, it’s never a bad idea to get checked out so that you can catch any small problems before they have the chance to grow into bigger ones.