Get Hiccups When You Wake Up? Doctors Explain Why and What Helps

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You might not question the hiccups after eating a big meal at lightning speed, or after drinking a fizzy beverage. But if you're waking up with hiccups in the morning, you're probably wondering what's going on.

Hiccups happen when your diaphragm—the muscle separating your chest from your stomach—starts to spasm repeatedly. When a spasm happens, your diaphragm pulls down and you quickly suck in air. Then your vocal cords respond by quickly closing, to stop you from sucking in more air. The result is a hiccup, per the Cleveland Clinic.

There's no "right" or "wrong" amount to hiccup. Some people do it more than others, and getting hiccups often-ish isn't necessarily cause for concern—unless it's uncomfortable or interfering with your day.

Experts In This Article

"Frequent hiccups are more common than people realize, and their timing may give us clues to their cause," says Emily Jones, MD, family medicine physician at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas.

Let's take a look at the most likely causes of morning hiccups, and what to do to get them to stop.

What causes hiccups when you wake up?

The short answer? Many, many things. "There are more than 30 potential causes of frequent hiccups," says Dr. Jones. Some of the most common triggers include the following, per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Eating a large or spicy meal
  • Drinking alcohol or caffeine
  • Suddenly getting excited or stressed

Those things could apply to hiccups that hit first thing in the AM, like if you ate a huge meal or drank a lot before bed. But if that's not the case, something else might be at play, including:

Acid reflux or GERD

Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (aka, GERD, which is acid reflux that happens regularly) can trigger diaphragm spasms that make you hiccup, says Dr. Jones. And because acid reflux is more likely to happen when your lying down, you might be more likely to get hit with hiccups or other symptoms—like heartburn or burping, per Nemours. This may also be the reason for any morning indigestion or gassiness.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is another common cause of hiccups when you wake up, says Dr. Jones. The sleep disorder—which causes you to repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep—can also cause loud snoring, gasping for air, dry mouth when you wake up, headache, or daytime fatigue, per the Mayo Clinic.


Strong emotional reactions can lead to diaphragm spasms that make you hiccup, per Harvard Health Publishing. This means, hiccups could certainly strike if you feel super anxious right when you wake up, says Dr. Jones. You might also feel chest pain and tightness, knots in your stomach, heart palpitations, or feel like you can't turn off your racing thoughts.


Steroids, benzodiazepines (for anxiety or sleep disorders), and some chemotherapy drugs can cause frequent hiccuping, says Dr. Jones. Medication-induced hiccups can happen when you wake up, or really at any other time of day.

In rare cases, underlying health conditions

Frequent or persistent hiccups can sometimes be a sign of a severe underlying health problem, especially if they're accompanied by other symptoms that aren't going away. Long-term hiccups can be caused by the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Bladder irritation
  • Bowel diseases
  • Certain cancers
  • Hepatitis
  • Kidney conditions like uremia
  • Stroke
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pleurisy (inflammation) of the diaphragm
  • Pneumonia

Are morning hiccups dangerous?

Lots of the things that cause hiccups are mostly harmless, says Dr. Jones. But sometimes frequent hiccups—in the morning or at other times of day—could be a sign of an underlying health problem that may need to be treated, like GERD or sleep apnea.

In rare instances, frequent hiccups could be a sign of something dangerous. "Sometimes hiccups could be a sign of cardiac ischemia, or when the arteries in your heart aren't getting enough blood," says Dr. Jones. If left untreated, this could potentially lead to a heart attack.

Because you might not be able to tell harmless hiccups from potentially serious ones, it's worth letting your doctor know if you're hiccuping a lot, or if you seem to be hiccuping around the same time every day. Together, you can figure out the culprit, and decide if it needs to be treated.

How to stop morning hiccups

Even simple morning hiccup remedies can be surprisingly effective, including hiccups that stem from snoring. Most work by startling your nervous system to jolt it out of the hiccuping pattern, per Harvard Health Publishing.

Some of Dr. Jones' favorite methods include the following:

  • Having someone try to scare you
  • Holding your breath for a minute
  • Drinking ice water
  • Breathing into a paper bag (or doing some breathwork exercises)
  • Drinking something acidic, like lemon juice

Managing the underlying cause can help, too. If your hiccups and snoring are triggered by sleep apnea, for example, getting the apnea and snoring under control will usually stop hiccups, too. Your doctor may recommend treatment options like a CPAP machine—which uses mild pressure to keep airways open while you sleep.

Prescription medications can also be an option if the above strategies haven't helped. The medication most prescribed is chlorpromazine—an antipsychotic that promotes relaxation by balancing the brain's levels of dopamine, per the Cleveland Clinic.

When to see a doctor about morning hiccups

If you're getting hiccups often, or notice they seem to happen at the same time each day, let your doctor know. This also applies if your hiccups last more than 48 hours, or they're so intense they're affecting your ability to eat, sleep, or breathe, per the Mayo Clinic.

While there's a good chance that the cause is benign, "it never hurts to make sure," says Dr. Jones. "A qualified medical professional should be able to listen to your symptoms and help steer you in the right direction."


How do you get rid of hiccups when lying down?

Things that "startle" your nervous system can help your diaphragm break out of a hiccuping cycle. When you're lying down, the easiest thing is to just try holding your breath for a minute or so, says Dr. Jones.

Are frequent hiccups a symptom of anything?

Frequent or persistent hiccups are usually a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. It's often a relatively minor issue—like GERD or sleep apnea, which can be easily treated—or a symptom of a new medication. But in some cases, your hiccups could be a sign of something more serious. The best way to figure out what's going on? Reach out to your doctor.

Is it bad to have hiccups while sleeping?

Aside from the fact that they're annoying and disruptive, hiccups that happen when you're sleeping could stem from snoring caused by sleep apnea. If hiccups are waking you up throughout the night, let your doctor know. Treating your sleep apnea can stop snoring and hiccuping, so you can get some much-needed rest.

—reviewed by Jennifer Logan, MD, MPH

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