What can cause dizziness when waking up?

Diabetes
Occasionally waking up dizzy is usually not a cause for concern. Possible causes of regular morning dizziness can include dehydration, ear infections, low blood pressure, and medication side effects.

Most people experience dizziness from time to time. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 15 percent of adults in the United States had a balance or dizziness problem in 2008.

Dizziness presents in different ways, but it can include:

  • feeling faint or lightheaded
  • feeling off-balance or disorientated
  • a sensation of spinning

Dizziness is often short-lived and may not always have an obvious cause. However, regularly waking up dizzy may be a symptom of an underlying condition.

In this article, we discuss the possible causes of waking up dizzy, prevention tips, and when to see a doctor.

Dehydration

waking up dizzy
Being dehydrated during the night can sometimes lead to waking up feeling dizzy.

People who are dehydrated during the night can sometimes wake up feeling dizzy. Other signs of dehydration can include:

Reasons for waking up dehydrated can include:

  • not drinking enough fluids during the day
  • sleeping in a hot environment
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • illnesses that cause vomiting and diarrhea
  • taking medications that cause a person to urinate more
  • drinking too many caffeinated beverages, which make a person urinate more


Low blood pressure

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, can cause dizziness in some people.

Blood pressure can also suddenly fall when a person changes from a lying or sitting position to a standing position, for example, when they get out of bed in the morning. This sudden drop in blood pressure is called postural or orthostatic hypotension.

Symptoms of postural hypotension can include:

  • dizziness
  • feeling lightheaded
  • blurred vision
  • fainting
  • falls

Low blood pressure can sometimes be a symptom of another condition, such as Parkinson’s disease or Addison’s disease. Prolonged bed rest and certain medications, such as beta-blockers, can also cause low blood pressure.

For people who experience postural hypotension, standing up or getting out of bed slowly and gradually can help prevent dizziness or fainting. Wearing compression stockings during the day may also help some people.

If a medication is causing low blood pressure, a doctor may recommend changing the dosage or switching to another drug. Treating any underlying conditions can also help prevent symptoms of low blood pressure.


Low blood sugar

waking up dizzy insulin needle
For people with diabetes, taking too much insulin can cause low blood sugar and early morning dizziness.

Early morning dizziness can be a symptom of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar is more common in people with diabetes, particularly those who take insulin, than in those without this condition.

In people with diabetes, causes of low blood sugar can include:

  • taking too much insulin or other diabetes medications
  • skipping meals or eating too little
  • intense physical activity
  • excessive alcohol consumption

Symptoms of low blood sugar can include:

  • shakiness or trembling
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • difficulty concentrating or confusion
  • excessive sweating

However, anyone can experience low blood sugar, and there may not always be an obvious cause. People who regularly experience symptoms of low blood sugar should see a doctor.


Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is a viral or bacterial infection of the inner ear that can lead to dizziness. The infection causes inflammation of the delicate structures of the inner ear, or labyrinth, which play an important role in maintaining a person’s balance.

Labyrinthitis can sometimes make it difficult for a person to stand up or stay upright, particularly when getting out of bed.

Other symptoms of labyrinthitis can include:

  • ear pain
  • headaches
  • a ringing or humming in the ear
  • blurred or double vision
  • nausea or vomiting

Labyrinthitis is most commonly due to a viral infection and often occurs following a cold or the flu. Treatment typically involves rest and drinking plenty of fluids.

For people with more severe symptoms, a doctor may recommend medications to reduce dizziness and nausea. They may also prescribe an antibiotic if the cause is a bacterial infection.

Medications

Some medications can cause dizziness as a side effect. These medications include certain:

  • antibiotics
  • diuretics
  • opioid-based pain relievers
  • anti-epileptics
  • immunosuppressant drugs
  • antidepressants
  • antipsychotics
  • antiretroviral medications

A person should speak to their doctor if they are taking a medication that they think is causing morning dizziness. The doctor may recommend changing the dosage or switching to a different treatment.


Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that can sometimes cause morning dizziness. OSA occurs when a person’s breathing becomes repeatedly interrupted or blocked during sleep. These interruptions disrupt sleep and can affect oxygen levels in the blood.

Other symptoms of OSA can include:

  • loud snoring and gasping while sleeping
  • needing to urinate more frequently during the night
  • dry mouth and headaches in the morning
  • concentration and memory difficulties
  • excessive fatigue during the day

In the long term, OSA may increase a person’s risk of developing several chronic conditions, such as heart problems, diabetes, and asthma.

People with symptoms of OSA should see a doctor for an evaluation. Depending on the underlying cause of a person’s OSA, treatment options can include lifestyle interventions, wearing a breathing device at night, and surgery.

Prevention

waking up dizzy drinking water
Staying hydrated, by drinking lots of fluids, can help prevent morning dizziness.

Some lifestyle interventions may help prevent or reduce morning dizziness. These include:

  • drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
  • quitting smoking
  • reducing alcohol intake
  • eating a balanced and healthful diet
  • avoiding caffeinated beverages in the evening
  • getting enough sleep
  • doing regular exercise
  • reducing and managing stress


When to see a doctor

People who occasionally wake up dizzy are unlikely to need medical care. However, people who regularly experience dizziness in the mornings should see a doctor. It is also important to consult a doctor if other concerning symptoms accompany the dizziness.

A person should seek immediate medical attention if dizziness occurs along with chest pain, a rapid heart rate, or a severe headache.

Summary

Most people experience dizziness from time to time, and it is usually not a cause for concern. However, regularly waking up feeling dizzy may be a sign of an underlying condition. Possible causes of dizziness can include dehydration, ear infections, low blood pressure, and medication side effects.

People who regularly wake up feeling dizzy or experience other concerning symptoms alongside the dizziness should see a doctor.

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