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Why Do I Wake Up Hungry? 11 Reasons You’re Starving In The Morning

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We are all well-acquainted with the sensation of hunger. Hunger is a natural physiological cue from our body that it is time to eat.

If you have fueled your body properly during the day, you should be able to sleep soundly through the night without being woken up by hunger pangs, yet some people still find that they are hungry in the middle of the night or they are habitually waking up with an empty stomach feeling.

In this article, we will discuss potential answers to the questions, “Why do I wake up hungry?” and “Why do I wake up starving in the morning?“

We will cover: 

  • Why Do I Wake Up Hungry? 11 Possible Causes

Let’s get started!

A person, fork, and knife in hand, waiting to eat.

Why Do I Wake Up Hungry?

Much in the way that our sleep-wake cycles are governed by circadian rhythm, or our biological clock, fluctuations in appetite typically follow a rather predictable pattern.

Therefore, waking up hungry, particularly in the middle of the night or even first thing in the morning, is rather abnormal and may indicate issues with your diet and nutritional intake, overall fueling strategies, medications, or some other aspect of your health.

Here are some of the potential reasons why you might be waking up starving in the morning:

#1: You Overindulged Before Bed

One of the most common reasons for waking up feeling ravenous in the morning is actually the most counterintuitive: overeating before bed.

After all, it’s natural to feel that if you are taking in an abundance of calories before bed, your body will have more than enough energy to get you through the night and well into the morning without the reappearance of hunger signals.

However, If you are overeating before bed, especially foods high in simple sugars and starch, there is a chance that you are experiencing an increase in morning hunger due to the insulin response from your pre-bed indulgence.

In fact, even if you do not necessarily go overboard in terms of total calories, if you have a particularly sugary snack right before bed, a similar reaction may occur: blood sugar spikes, and then insulin spikes, resulting in low blood sugar and an increase in appetite.

An exhausted person who did not sleep.

#2: You Didn’t Sleep Well

If you are tossing and turning most of the night or going to bed too late and just not getting enough sleep, you may also wake up feeling hungry, or you might even be bothered by hunger in the middle of the night.

Inadequate sleep has been associated with poor blood sugar control as well as an increase in the production of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for appetite, potentially leading to weight gain.

#3: You’re Dehydrated

If you’re asking yourself, why am I so hungry in the morning, you may be dehydrated.

Just as the body burns through some calories overnight, you also lose water through breathing (water vapor), sweat, and urination during the night.

Additionally, a lot of people consciously cut back on hydration in the final hours before bed in order to prevent having to get up to pee multiple times at night.

Therefore, most of us wake up in a partially-dehydrated state, and we often conflate hunger with thirst.

If you are waking up hungry in the morning but feel like you are eating enough during the day, your hydration may be to blame.

Try having a large glass of water or a glass of hot water with lemon first thing in the morning upon waking and see if it quiets your hunger for a couple of hours until you plan to eat breakfast.

A person stretching in the evening in a parking garage.

#4: You Worked Out Before Bed

If you save your workout until the end of the day and perform some type of vigorous exercise within 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, you might find yourself waking up hungry in the night or starving in the morning if you have not refueled properly after your workout.

After exercise, the body needs carbohydrates to replenish glycogen levels, as well as protein to help repair muscle damage.

You should have a nourishing post-workout snack within the first 30 minutes after finishing your workout (if possible) or as soon as you can.

If you are not getting an adequate number of calories and are going too light on the number of grams of carbohydrates and protein your body needs based on your body size and the workout that you did, your body will be in search of nutrients and calories, causing a spike in appetite in the morning.

A stressed-out person on the computer.

#5: You Are Stressed

If you’re wondering to yourself, why do I wake up starving in the morning, it could be stress.

If you are dealing with acute or chronic stress, you might wake up hungry in the morning because your cortisol levels are high. Cortisol has been shown to increase appetite and may cause weight gain and increased fat storage.

#6: You Are Overtraining 

Even if you are refueling your body well after your workouts and not working out right before bed, it’s possible that your exercise habits are contributing to you waking up hungry.

Overtraining occurs when you chronically exceed the ability of your body to recover sufficiently from your workouts, digging you into a hole of incomplete recovery.

Any sort of exercise acts as a physical stressor on the body and will increase cortisol levels. However, habitually overtraining will cause an excessive rise in cortisol, which, in turn, can increase your appetite.

A person holding their lower abdomen.

#7: You’re About to Get Your Period

Some women experience changes in appetite as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Premenstrual syndrome is a cluster of symptoms that may be experienced several days leading up to the beginning of a menstrual period. One of the more common symptoms is an increase in appetite, particularly in regard to craving sugary or salty foods.

You may also experience bloating, fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, and cramping.

If you find that you are waking up hungry or feeling hungry in the middle of the night right before your period, it is likely due to these hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation.

In some cases, certain birth-control medications may help quell some of these symptoms, so speaking with your healthcare provider about options can be helpful in cases where you are really struggling with overeating, cravings, or hunger that is disrupting your sleep in relation to your period.

A pregnant woman making a heart with her hands over her stomach.

#8: You Are Pregnant

Many women experience an increase in appetite during pregnancy due to the increased need for energy to support the growth and development of the fetus.

So if you are wondering to yourself, why am I so hungry in the morning and are pregnant, you might not be meeting your caloric needs during the day.

Make sure that you are not going to bed hungry, but if nighttime hunger is keeping you up and you believe that you are eating enough, hunger at night during pregnancy can be a sign of gestational diabetes.

If you are pregnant and feeling ravenous in the morning, you should speak with your doctor and consider working with a nutritionist to ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs and not developing gestational diabetes.

#9: Your Medications Are Increasing Your Appetite

Certain medications are associated with increases in appetite, so if you are waking up starving in the morning or find yourself constantly grabbing for another snack shortly after you have just eaten, your medication may be to blame.

Medications that are commonly associated with an increase in appetite include certain antidepressants, steroids such as prednisone, some diabetes medications including insulin, anti-seizure drugs, antipsychotics, some antihistamines, and some medications used to manage migraines.

A person eating a salad.

#10: You Aren’t Eating Enough During the Day

This one is probably obvious, but if you are not eating enough during the day and you are in a caloric deficit, you are going to wake up feeling hungry because your body is trying to urge you to eat more calories.

This may not be problematic because you can start your day with a nourishing breakfast, but if you are waking up starving in the middle of the night or your hunger is interfering with your sleep, you may need to increase your caloric intake a little bit or have a protein-rich bedtime snack to help keep your stomach from rumbling during the night.

#11: You Are Dealing With Underlying Health Conditions

Certain health conditions, such as insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, obesity in metabolic syndrome, and diabetes, can interfere with regulating blood sugar and appetite levels, which may cause you to feel abnormally hungry in the morning or wake up hungry at night.

If you have one of these conditions and are suffering from excessive nighttime hunger or feeling starving in the morning, you should speak with your healthcare provider about managing your condition.

Otherwise, if you have yet to be diagnosed with a metabolic condition but display other signs such as increased thirst, increased urination, fatigue, changes in weight, slow-healing wounds, blurry vision, and high blood pressure, you should speak with your doctor about an evaluation for underlying medical conditions.

What about not only in the morning but what if you are hungry all the time? To discover the root cause, read our article: Why Am I Hungry All The Time? 12 Causes of Constant Hunger.

A patient meeting with two doctors asking why do I wake up hungry?
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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