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Why Does My Stomach Hurt When I Wake Up & What to Do About It

Stomach pain in the morning could be indigestion, acid reflux, IBS, or IBD. Low sleep debt, circadian alignment, and sleep hygiene can help.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
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We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Published
2023-02-22
Updated
17 MINS
man waking up in the morning with stomach ache

When your alarm goes off in the morning, you should be waking up excited for a new day, or at least for the coffee that’s been brewing. But, instead, you’re struck down with stomach pain that makes it hard to get out of bed. 

If this is a rare occurrence, it’s probably nothing to worry about, and the pain should go away on its own soon enough. If, however, you’re regularly waking up with stomach pain, or your stomach pain wakes you up early, stopping you from getting a full night’s sleep, you need to find the fix and/or seek medical attention. 

Below, we’ll cover the common reasons your stomach might be hurting when you wake up and what you can do to fix it. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can help.

What Causes Stomach Pain in the Morning?

Here’s what could be behind your morning stomach pain. 

1. Indigestion 

Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is common. It happens when stomach acid irritates the lining of your stomach, the top part of your bowel, or your esophagus. 

It’s not a condition in its own right, however. It’s a symptom of a condition like acid reflux or ulcers.  

Medication, obesity, stress, anxiety, alcohol, caffeine, eating spicy or fatty foods, or eating too quickly can cause indigestion. Symptoms usually appear after eating, so you may get stomach pain right after breakfast. 

Symptoms of indigestion include: 

  • Stomach pain 
  • Heartburn 
  • Bloating 
  • Nausea 
  • Diarrhea 

The fix: Cut down alcohol, caffeine, and your intake of spicy and fatty foods. Try eating smaller meals and eating more slowly, and keeping your stress and anxiety in check.

Over-the-counter pain relief like aspirin can help reduce pain in the moment, but these can also irritate your stomach. Ginger ale and peppermint tea are home remedies that may ease stomach pain. 

We’ve covered what helps with digestion and how to improve gut health naturally here. 

2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) 

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a functional gastrointestinal disorder. It can be triggered by stress, a lack of sleep, or being out of sync with your circadian rhythm — your body’s roughly 24-hour biological clock. 

If you’ve had a night of poor sleep, abdominal pain from IBS may be worse the next day. And sleep disruption can make GI symptoms and visceral hypersensitivity (pain in your visceral organs like your stomach) worse. Morning IBS symptoms are also worse after a night of poor sleep. 

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Cramps 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Constipation 
  • Bloating 
  • Nausea 

The fix: Keep your sleep debt low and circadian rhythm in check (more on how to do that soon) as these can trigger IBS and make symptoms worse. Avoid eating within two to three hours of bedtime and reduce how much fiber, fat, and spicy foods you eat. Exercise, lowering anxiety, and melatonin supplements can also help. 

To see more causes and treatments, check out how to sleep with IBS here. 

3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) 

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a more serious gastrointestinal disorder. It happens when your gastrointestinal tract is chronically inflamed. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease come under IBD. 

Symptoms of IBD include: 

  • Stomach pain 
  • Cramps 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fatigue 
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in stool 

The fix: Speak to a doctor if you think you have IBD. Anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, and biologics (which neutralize inflammation-causing proteins) may be needed.

4. Constipation 

Constipation is infrequent bowel movements or having difficult bowel movements. It’s usually described as fewer than three bowel movements a week. 

Common causes of constipation include stress and anxiety, not eating enough fiber, not drinking enough water, or a lack of exercise.

Symptoms of constipation include: 

  • Stomach pain 
  • Having hard or lumpy stools 
  • Straining to have a bowel movement 
  • Pain when having a bowel movement 

The fix: Try lifestyle changes like doing more exercise, drinking more water, eating more fiber, and reducing your anxiety to ease constipation. Medications like laxatives can also help.    

5. Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Acid reflux is usually felt as a burning sensation in your chest, but you may also feel stomach pain. 

It happens when stomach acid flows back up your digestive tract into your esophagus. Chronic acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

One small study found almost half of GERD patients have an acid reflux event within the first 20 minutes of waking up.

Symptoms of acid reflux include: 

  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn 
  • Nausea 
  • Bad breath
  • A bad taste in your mouth 
  • Bloating 

The fix: Try eating smaller and more frequent meals and avoid overeating, reducing your anxiety, losing weight if you’re overweight, avoiding eating too close to bedtime, and sleeping with your head elevated. You can also take over-the-counter medication like Prevacid, Nexium, or Prilosec, after consulting with your doctor. 

Sleeping on your left side may also help. A 2022 study found left-side sleeping helped those with GERD have more reflux-free nights. 

You can learn more about the best side to sleep on for digestion here and how to sleep with acid reflux here. 

6. Food Intolerances and Allergies 

You might have had something new for dinner last night — or accidentally consumed something you know you’re allergic to — and now you’ve woken up in pain or with an upset stomach. 

Allergies or intolerances to dairy, shellfish, wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, or nuts can cause stomach pain, as can celiac disease. 

Symptoms of food allergies include: 

  • Stomach pain 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling of the tongue, lips, or eyes 
  • Diarrhea 

The fix: If you don’t know of any food allergies, keep a food diary to track what you’ve eaten and when you get symptoms. You can also speak to a doctor about allergy tests. 

7. Pancreatitis 

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. You might feel pain in your stomach, especially after eating — so this may come on after breakfast. 

Symptoms of pancreatitis include: 

  • Sharp pain in your stomach or back 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Fever 
  • Having a swollen or tender belly  

The fix: Seek medical attention. Pain relief can help in the moment, but you may need antibiotics, fluids, or surgery. A doctor will also be able to determine the cause of your pancreatitis and treat that. This could be something like gallstones or alcohol misuse. 

8. Peptic Ulcer 

A peptic ulcer is an ulcer found on your stomach lining or in your small intestine. They’re caused by a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterial infection or from overusing anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) like aspirin. 

You may get peptic ulcer pain at any time of the day, but it might feel worse in the morning as you have an empty stomach. 

Symptoms of peptic ulcers include: 

  • Stomach pain 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss 
  • Indigestion  

The fix: An over-the-counter antacid can ease pain. See a doctor if you think you have a stomach ulcer as you may need antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors to reduce stomach acid, or surgery. 

9. Period Pain 

Cramps and bloating can hit you at any time of your period, including the morning. And period pain may be made worse by the fact it’s hard to get enough sleep (due to a potent cocktail of pain, anxiety, and fluctuating hormones). 

Symptoms of period pain include: 

The fix: Try a hot water bottle or heating pad to ease the stomach ache and pain relievers like ibuprofen. Yoga, a brisk walk, and abdominal massage can also help.

Getting enough sleep can make the pain easier to deal with, but sleep can be hard to come by on your period. We’ve covered how to sleep on your period and more about insomnia before your period here.  

10. Gastritis 

Gastritis is when your stomach lining becomes inflamed. This can be caused by an infection, overuse of certain pain relievers, or overuse of alcohol. 

Gastritis may become worse when you eat, so you may feel your stomach pain more after breakfast. 

Symptoms of gastritis include: 

  • Stomach pain 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Feelings of fullness in your upper abdomen 

The fix: Speak to a doctor. You may need antibiotics, acid blockers, or proton pump inhibitors. 

11. Diverticulitis 

Diverticulitis happens when small sacs develop in the wall of your large intestine and become inflamed. 

Symptoms of diverticulitis include: 

  • Stomach pain, usually in the lower left side of your abdomen  
  • Constipation 
  • Fever 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting  

The fix: Speak to a healthcare professional. You may need antibiotics. Mild cases can be treated with rest and dietary changes, but more severe cases may need surgery. 

12. Gallstones 

Gallstones are small stones, usually of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder. 

You may have no symptoms and not even need treatment. But, if a gallstone becomes trapped in a duct in your gallbladder, you may feel symptoms like: 

  • Stomach pain in the center or upper right of your abdomen 
  • Back or right shoulder pain 
  • Nause
  • Vomiting 

The fix: Speak to a doctor. They may prescribe medication to dissolve your gallstones or recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder. 

13. Food Poisoning 

You can get food poisoning from eating contaminated food. It usually goes away on its own within a few hours or days. 

Symptoms of food poisoning include: 

  • Stomach pain
  • Cramps  
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 

The fix: Unfortunately, you’ll have to ride out the illness. Keep hydrated, eat small meals of bland foods, and rest as much as possible. Get medical advice if your symptoms don’t improve after a few days, you’re pregnant, over 60, have an underlying serious condition, or it’s your child who’s sick. 

How to Stop Stomach Pain in the Morning?

Apart from treating the root cause (see our fixes above), here’s what you can do to reduce stomach pain in the morning. 

1. Lower Your Sleep Debt 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can tell you how much sleep debt you have.

Sleep debt is the name for the amount of sleep you owe your body. It’s compared to your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need. 

When you don’t meet your sleep need at night, you start building up sleep debt, and this can lead to low energy levels, poor mood, and many mental and physical health conditions — including those that could be causing your stomach pain.  

Poor sleep has been linked to a number of causes of stomach pain including: 

  • Upper and lower GI symptoms 
  • Upper abdominal pain 
  • Reflux 
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation 
  • IBS 

To make matters worse, when you don’t get enough sleep, you feel pain more acutely. So, even if a lack of sleep isn’t behind your stomach pain, it could very well make it much harder to deal with. 

Plus, sleep deprivation can throw your hunger hormones out of whack, making you more likely to overeat and reach for unhealthier foods — both of which can contribute to digestive issues and stomach pain. You learn more about the link between sleep and what and how much you eat here.

Luckily, you can pay down the sleep debt you’ve built up. 

To lower your sleep debt, you can: 

  • Take naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this. 
  • Go to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleep in a little later: Keep this to an hour or two to avoid messing up your circadian rhythm (more on that soon). 
  • Improve your sleep hygiene: Sleep hygiene can cut down the time it takes you to fall asleep and reduce how often you wake up during the night, helping you get more sleep overall. More on what to do soon.

The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have and keep track of it as you pay it back. We measure your sleep debt over your past 14 nights and recommend you keep it below five hours to feel your best. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

2. Get in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm

RISE app screenshot showing your energy peak and dip times
The RISE app can predict your circadian rhythm each day.

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s biological clock. When you’re out of sync with it, you can not only cause low energy and sleep problems, but a whole host of health issues — including in your digestive system, causing stomach pain. 

But you don’t just have one circadian rhythm to think about. You have one master clock in your brain that controls your sleep-wake cycle. And you have clocks in almost every other tissue and organ — these are called peripheral clocks. 

When your master clock, peripheral clocks, and the outside world are at odds, you can easily suffer from digestive issues like constipation, acid reflux, IBS, IBD, and even digestive cancers

Here’s how to get in sync: 

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Aim to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same times each day, even on your days off. 
  • Eat meals at roughly the same times and during the day: Eating can change the timing of your circadian rhythm, so keep meals at roughly the same time and avoid eating when your body’s not expecting it (i.e. at night). Finish up your final meal two to three hours before bed to stop digestive issues from keeping you up. What you eat matters, too. We’ve covered the best foods for sleep here. 
  • Go to bed during your Melatonin Window: This is what we call the roughly one-hour window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production is at its highest. Melatonin is your body’s sleep hormone, so going to bed during this window can help you fall and stay asleep.

The RISE app predicts your circadian rhythm each day based on factors like your inferred light exposure and last night’s sleep times. You can then see when your body naturally wants to wake up, wind down for bed, and go to sleep, and sync up your sleep and meal times to it. 

RISE can also remind you when to have your final meal of the day and show you when your Melatonin Window will be. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

3. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene 

RISE app screenshot showing when to avoid bright light
The RISE app can remind you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

Sleep hygiene can help you both meet your sleep need each night and stay in sync, by helping you feel sleepy at bedtime and fall asleep at the right times. 

Here’s what to do: 

  • Get bright light first thing: Morning light resets your circadian rhythm for the day. Aim for at least 10 minutes of light as soon as possible after waking up, and get 15 to 20 minutes if it's overcast or you’re getting light through a window.
  • Avoid light close to bedtime: As light suppresses melatonin, you want to avoid it in the run-up to bedtime. Dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses 90 minutes before bed. 
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, intense exercise, and alcohol too late in the day: All four can keep you up or wake you up during the night. These things may also be a trigger making stomach pain worse if you have indigestion, acid reflux,  IBS, or GERD. 
  • Do a calming bedtime routine: Lower your stress (another trigger for issues causing stomach pain) and slow your brain and body down for sleep. Try reading, listening to music, or doing yoga. We cover how to relax before bed, even when you’re stressed, here.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet: Set your thermostat to 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, use blackout curtains, and wear earplugs and an eye mask

To remember it all, the RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day and tell you the ideal time to do each one based on your circadian rhythm to make them more effective.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.

How to Fall Back to Sleep When Your Stomach Hurts?

Woken up before your alarm with stomach pain? Here’s how you can get back to sleep to get some more shut-eye: 

  • Treat the pain: If pain has woken you up, try grabbing a hot water bottle or heat pad, doing some gentle stretches, or abdominal massage. 
  • Keep the lights low: Light suppresses melatonin, so keep the lights as low as possible if you get up during the night. 
  • Do a sleep reset: If you find yourself awake in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. Try reading, meditating, or journaling. This will stop your brain from associating your bed with wakefulness.  
  • Keep calm: Easier said than done, but anxiety over pain or lost sleep will only make it harder to drift back off. As much as you can, try to remain calm. Avoid looking at the time and counting down the hours until you need to get up. RISE can guide you through science-backed relaxation techniques to help slow your mind. 
  • Sleep on your side: If you’re a front sleeper, try switching your position to avoid putting weight on your stomach when it’s in pain. Left-side sleeping has been shown to help those with GERD. We’ve covered the best side to sleep on here and the best sleeping positions to lose weight here.
  • Maintain excellent sleep hygiene: To stop anything like caffeine or alcohol from waking you up in the future, keep your sleep hygiene on point each day. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to go right to their relaxation audio guide homepage and get started.

What Causes Stomach Pain at Night?

Going to bed with stomach pain or waking up with it in the middle of the night? Many of the causes of stomach pain in the morning are the same as nighttime stomach pain.

These include: 

  • Indigestion 
  • IBS 
  • IBD 
  • Constipation 
  • Acid reflux and GERD 
  • Food allergies 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Period pain
  • Diverticulitis 
  • Gallstones 
  • Gastritis 

Your stomach pain may feel worse at night as you’re laying down, which makes it easier for stomach acid to rise into your esophagus, for example. Pain may be worse after a large meal, and you may have just eaten dinner close to bedtime. Pain may also feel worse because you have no distractions like work or family when you’re laying in bed. 

Speak to a doctor if stomach pain at night is a regular occurrence for you. 

Waking up with stomach pain can be a scary experience, or you may be worrying as battling pain has become a regular part of your morning routine. But when does stomach pain in the morning go from harmless to something serious? 

Most of the time, stomach pain is harmless and will go away on its own. But you should seek medical help for stomach pain if it’s a regular occurrence or if severe pain has woken you up from sleep. 

Soothe Morning Stomach Pain the Night Before 

There are many causes of morning stomach pain, ranging from food allergies and indigestion to acid reflux and IBS. Speak to a doctor if you regularly wake up with stomach pain or if it’s severe enough to wake you up in your sleep. 

For other times, focus on lowering your sleep debt and syncing up with your circadian rhythm to keep your digestive health in tip-top condition. Maintain excellent sleep hygiene to help make this happen. 

The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have, predict your circadian rhythm each day, and remind you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits. All this will help you get a good night’s sleep, improving your overall health and wellness and, hopefully, leading to pain-free mornings. 

Summary FAQs

Why does my stomach hurt when I wake up in the morning?

Your stomach may hurt when you wake up in the morning due to indigestion, IBS, IBD, constipation, acid reflux, GERD, a food allergy, pancreatitis, a peptic ulcer, period pain, gastritis, diverticulitis, or gallstones. Speak to a doctor if the pain doesn’t go away or if it was severe enough to wake you up from sleep.

How to stop stomach pain in the morning?

Stop stomach pain in the morning by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, finishing your final meal two to three hours before bedtime, lowering your stress and anxiety, eating smaller and more frequent meals, and cutting down on caffeine, alcohol, and spicy and fatty foods.

Why does my stomach hurt every day?

Your stomach may hurt every day because of indigestion, IBS, IBD, constipation, acid reflux, GERD, a food allergy, pancreatitis, peptic ulcers, gastritis, diverticulitis, or gallstones. Speak to a doctor if the pain doesn’t go away or if it’s severe enough to wake you up from sleep.

Stomach pain when lying down at night

Stomach pain when lying down at night can be caused by indigestion, IBS, IBD, constipation, acid reflux, GERD, pancreatitis, peptic ulcers, gastritis, diverticulitis, or gallstones. Speak to a doctor if the pain doesn’t go away or if it’s severe enough to wake you up from sleep.

Why does my stomach hurt when I wake up in the middle of the night?

Your stomach may hurt when you wake up in the middle of the night due to indigestion, IBS, IBD, constipation, acid reflux, GERD, a food allergy, pancreatitis, peptic ulcers, period pain, gastritis, diverticulitis, or gallstones. Speak to a doctor if the pain woke you up from sleep or if it doesn’t go away.

How to stop stomach pain at night

Stop stomach pain at night by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, finishing your final meal two to three hours before bedtime, lowering your stress and anxiety, eating smaller and more frequent meals, and cutting down on caffeine, alcohol, and spicy and fatty foods.

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