Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back (or refluxes) into your esophagus, the tube connecting your throat to your stomach.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a common condition in which you frequently have acid reflux.

About 20 percent of Americans are affected by GERD, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. For most, GERD is worse at night, recognized as heartburn (a burning sensation in your chest), often after eating.

Many people also feel the discomfort of acid reflux in the morning.

Keep reading to learn more about what might be causing your heartburn in the morning, and what you can do to treat and prevent it.

A 2009 study coined the phrase “riser’s reflux” when results indicated that 48.7 percent of the participants (all with GERD), had an acid reflux event within the first 20 minutes after waking up in the morning.

The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn. Other symptoms include:

Consider making an appointment with a doctor or gastroenterologist if:

  • you take over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn medication more than two times a week
  • your GERD symptoms are frequent or severe

Get emergency medical care if your chest pain is accompanied by:

These may be indicators of a heart attack.

You can take certain steps to help avoid waking up with acid reflux, including:

  • Sleep with your body raised from the waist up by elevating the end of your bed 6 to 9 inches.
  • Stop eating 3 hours before you go to bed.
  • Stay away from foods that typically cause acid reflux, such as coffee, chocolate, garlic, onion, and mint.

Your doctor may suggest medications, such as:

  • proton pump inhibitors (medication to block acid production and heal your esophagus) first thing in the morning, about 30 minutes before breakfast
  • OTC antacids that may provide quick relief by neutralizing stomach acid
  • H2 receptor blockers (medication to reduce acid production)

You may have a higher risk of acid reflux if you:

  • have obesity
  • smoke
  • drink alcohol
  • have a hiatal hernia
  • take medications that weaken the lower esophageal sphincter

If you have nausea in the morning, it might not be acid reflux. Nausea could also be caused by:

Although most people with acid reflux experience the symptoms at night and often after a large meal, many people have acid reflux symptoms in the morning hours.

To treat your acid reflux, there are a number of self-directed actions you can take, such as elevating the end of your bed, and avoiding acid reflux trigger foods.

There are also many doctor-directed treatments, such as proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor blockers.