Do you find yourself constantly waking up with a headache? If so, you are not alone. Headaches are a common health concern, but many people are unaware of the reasons behind their constant occurrence. In this blog post, we will explore some of the possible causes of morning headaches, and provide tips for prevention and relief.
It’s important to note that the cause of your morning headache can vary and may be influenced by several factors such as sleep disturbance, hangover, or teeth grinding. These are some of the most common causes.
Being unconscious may seem preferable when you have a throbbing headache. But what happens if your headache is brought on by sleep?
Understanding the connection between sleep and headaches is crucial. If you experience frequent headaches upon waking, it may be due to a sleep disturbance. Keep this in mind as you explore the causes of your headaches.
Which headache types are most prevalent in the morning?
Before exploring solutions for morning headaches, it can be helpful to identify the type of headache you are experiencing. The human skull is a complex organ, and different kinds of headaches can occur in the morning. Additionally, various feelings can point to a variety of problems.
The types of headaches you could get in the morning are as follows:
• Migraines: These headaches typically cause intense throbbing pain in one area of your head and are usually accompanied by nausea and dizziness.
• Tension-Type Headaches: These headaches are characterized by a feeling of pressure across your entire head, often resembling a tight band squeezing your skull. These can hurt in various degrees, from moderate to severe, but they are all unpleasant.
• Clusters Headaches: These headaches are characterized by sharp pain on one side of your head, which can quickly disappear and return with a fury. These can last anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours and are often experienced after waking.
• Hypnic Headaches: These are less common headaches, also known as “alarm clock headaches, which occur in the morning after waking up from a deep sleep. They could occur once a night or every night.
Determining the type of headache you are experiencing in the morning is the first step in finding the underlying cause.
Six causes of morning headaches
- Insomnia and sleep problems: There is a strong connection between headaches and sleep problems. Lack of sleep can increase your risk of experiencing a tension headache during the day, creating a vicious cycle. Tension headaches caused by insomnia can make it difficult to fall asleep, which might result in more headaches. (AHHH!). Other types of headaches can also become more intense when you don’t get enough sleep, amplifying your discomfort. While getting sufficient rest is essential, it may not always provide relief for persistent headaches, as both cluster headaches and migraines can occur even when you are well-rested. They might also occur when the sun is blazing and you are fully awake.
- Sleep Apnea and Headaches: People with sleep apnea experience brief intervals of cessation of breathing during the night. While snoring is the most commonly mentioned symptom of sleep apnea, headaches are also surprisingly prevalent. It’s estimated that over half of those with sleep apnea experience daily headaches that typically subside within four hours. Headaches caused by sleep apnea are often described as a pressing sensation on both sides of the head, different from the pulsing pain of migraines that may be accompanied by nausea or other symptoms. The good news; curing the apnea oftentimes stops the headaches.
- Exploding head syndrome: The condition known as “exploding head syndrome” exists. It’s not at all what it sounds like, no. (Goodness, please!) Exploding head syndrome is a sleep disorder characterized by phantom explosions or crashes experienced in transitional periods between wakefulness and sleep. Although it is usually harmless, some individuals report sharp headaches. The cause of this syndrome is unclear but believed to occur when the wake systems switch off and the sleep systems activate, similar to muscle spasms when transitioning from being awake to asleep.
- Oversleeping: Achieving a balanced sleep schedule is key to avoiding headaches. Just as insufficient sleep can lead to headaches, oversleeping can also be a contributing factor. When you sleep for longer than usual, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm, causing drowsiness and headaches. It may occur if you get enough hours of sleep, but the quality is poor.
- Tooth Grinding: Sleep bruxism, also known as teeth grinding, can cause headaches by clenching the jaw and grinding teeth unconsciously. These can result in facial and head tension, leading to a headache or migraine in the morning.
- Hangover: Alcohol consumption can cause a headache the following day, especially if you binge drink before bed. Alcohol also significantly dehydrates the body, leading to headaches due to lack of hydration.
How to handle morning headaches
Given the complexity of sleep, it is not surprising that there is still much to learn about how our sleep systems can malfunction and cause headaches. However, the relationship between headaches and sleep disturbances is often manageable.
Many patients reported that their migraines disappeared once they addressed their insomnia or sleep apnea. If you experience frequent headaches, it is worth investigating whether a sleep disturbance could be the underlying cause.
Ways to avoid morning headaches
There are several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the likelihood of waking up with headaches, regardless of whether your doctor prescribes any sleep treatment or not.
Maintain a regular sleeping schedule; Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, which may help prevent headaches.
Keep track of your migraines; Take note of when you experience headaches or migraines and identify any patterns. You can use a journal or make notes on your phone.
Limit alcohol consumption; Be mindful of the amount of alcohol you drink in the evenings, especially if your headache journal shows that alcohol triggers headaches. Ask your doctor for resources if you need help controlling your alcohol intake.
Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet; Drink enough water throughout the day and start your morning with a glass of water. A healthy diet can also help prevent headaches.
When Should Morning Headaches Become a Concern?
If your morning headaches persist despite making changes to your lifestyle, it’s recommended that you seek medical attention. Your doctor can help identify any underlying causes and suggest additional treatments, such as examining medications, dietary, or muscle tension-related factors.
You may require additional treatment to address the underlying issue if your physician determines that your headaches may be related to insomnia, sleep apnea, or bruxism. If you experience morning headaches three or more times a week, schedule an appointment to discuss your options with a doctor.