Do you often suffer from Waking up with headaches? If it only happens occasionally and the cause is known, then there is nothing to worry about. Read this article to know when to see a doctor right away if you get a headache after sleeping?
It’s not uncommon to wake up every morning with a headache. Millions of people struggle with morning headaches or any other time of day. It could be a form of migraine. It could also be something else.
About 1 out 13 people suffer from morning headaches. These headaches usually affect women more than men and occur most often in those aged 45-64.
A variety of health conditions and sleep patterns can lead to headaches upon waking up. The most common causes are sleep apnea or migraine and a lack of sleep. A headache can also be caused by alcohol, teeth grinding, or certain medications. Sometimes, your headaches are caused by a combination of disorders.
It is not a good way to begin the day. If this happens enough often, it will likely be a top priority to find the root cause. Is it a sleep problem or a headache? Do you have a headache or sleep problem?
You might think that you may have a history of chronic headaches. You might be suffering from poor sleep.
Sleep deprivation could be causing headaches if you have a hard time sleeping. You might be unable to get the rest you need because of your aching head.
If you get caught up in the uncertainty loop, there is one thing that will be clear: You are dealing with an extremely sticky problem. You can approach this chicken-and-egg problem by focusing on each individual issue.
You can improve your sleep hygiene and prevent morning headaches by addressing your sleep needs. For chronic headaches, seek medical advice.
Given the fundamental importance of sleep in overall wellbeing, and the serious cognitive, physical, emotional, and psychological repercussions associated with sleep deprivation, the first thing to do is to change your daily habits to improve sleep.
This article will explain how sleep deprivation can cause headaches and pain. We’ll also share some tips to improve sleep hygiene and get the rest your body needs.
We’ll also be discussing the different types of headaches, sleep disorders, and other medical issues that are associated with early morning headaches.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Causes Early Morning Headaches?
- 1.1 Snoring and sleep apnea
- 1.2 Anxiety or depression
- 1.3 Grinding your teeth aka Bruxism
- 1.4 Strained muscles
- 1.5 Insomnia
- 1.6 Medications
- 1.7 Alcohol and hangovers
- 1.8 Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- 1.9 Circadian rhythm disorders
- 1.10 Tumor
- 1.11 Diet
- 1.12 Oversleeping
- 1.13 Allergens at Home
- 1.14 Rare Morning Headaches
- 1.15 Other health conditions
- 2 Waking up with headaches: Types of headaches
- 3 Morning Headaches: Treatment
- 4 When should you see a doctor?
- 5 Summary
What Causes Early Morning Headaches?
These are some factors and conditions that can lead to early morning headaches.
Snoring and sleep apnea
Your headaches may be caused by disturbed sleep due to snoring, or sleep apnea. Snoring can either be an individual condition or a sign of sleep apnea.
You may experience sleep apnea, which can cause you to have difficulty breathing during the night. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes headaches for approximately 30 min.
Anxiety or depression
Research has shown that migraine episodes and mood disorders often occur in conjunction, which indicates a greater risk of developing the other.
A person’s frequency of experiencing migraine episodes can indicate their likelihood of developing mood disorders.
According to the study, people suffering from migraine are 2.5x more likely than those who don’t suffer from them. They also have between 2 and 5 times higher chances of developing anxiety disorders.
Mind-related conditions such as insomnia can lead to other health problems, which can increase the risk of morning headaches.
Talk to your doctor if you think you might have a mental illness. These conditions are often managed by medication or talk therapy. These conditions can be managed to reduce the likelihood of suffering from morning headaches.
Talk therapy is often used to treat anxiety or depression. People might also consider medication, such as antidepressants, and coping strategies such as relaxation techniques.
It is important to note that antidepressants can have side effects such as insomnia, headaches, or worsened anxiety. These side effects usually disappear in a few weeks but can sometimes persist.
Grinding your teeth aka Bruxism
Bruxism is the act of grinding or clenching teeth. It can also occur at night, which is known as sleep bruxism. Although bruxism is often associated with morning headaches, research is mixed to determine if the headache is actually caused by bruxism.
Researchers believe that headaches caused by bruxism could actually be due to a disorder of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) in your jaw.
A headache caused by bruxism can feel dull and near your temples.
Other sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea and damaged teeth can also be linked to bruxism.
Bruxism, a tension-related disorder, can cause a person’s teeth to grind or clench in their sleep as well as while awake. It is possible that they don’t realize what they are doing.
Sleep bruxism refers to a particular type of sleep-related movement disorder in which a person grinds their teeth or clenches them during the night. A possible sign is early morning headaches.
A person suffering from bruxism might also have a dull headache.
- Sleep pattern disruption
- Tenderness or pain in their jaws or faces
- Tired jaw muscles
- They have difficulty opening or closing their jaws completely
- Tooth sensitivity and pain
- Unexplained earache
- Unexplained damage to their inside cheek
- Unexplained flattened, chipped, fractured or broken teeth
There are many treatment options available for bruxism:
- Establishing good sleeping habits
- Limiting or avoiding the use of tobacco, alcohol, recreational drugs
- Treatment for anxiety and stress
- Use a nightguard to protect your mouth
Some researchers looked into drug treatments and Botulinum toxin (Botox), injections for the treatment of bruxism. However, there isn’t enough evidence to support these.
A doctor might offer treatment for bruxism if it is caused by a neurological condition.
An injury to your neck may cause headaches in the morning. The most common is a headache at the base of the skull. To alleviate this type of headache, you may need to assess your sleeping position and the pillows that you use.
Pillows are designed to support your spine and neck while you sleep. It may take some time to find the right pillow. Your pillow should support your neck and head in the same way as when you are standing.
Bad sleep hygiene could lead to headaches after a nap. A headache can be caused by a poor pillow choice. Your neck and head could be in an incontinent position, which can lead to tension and strained muscles.
Soft pillows might not be able to support your neck and spine properly. Hard pillows could cause too much of an angle for you. To maintain a good sleeping position, you should replace your pillow whenever necessary.
A recent review found that there are moderate indications that these pillow features could improve sleep quality and reduce sleep-related pain.
- The middle pillow height can range from 7 to 11 cm (2.8 to 4.3 inches).
- A contoured design with higher sides and a flattened middle.
- A cooling surface
- Latex pillows
Sleep deprivation can lead to insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns. Morning headaches can be caused by sleep deprivation and can lead to migraine. You can avoid getting enough sleep through insomnia.
- Restless sleep
- Awakening you during your sleep
- Keeps you awake when you’re trying to fall asleep
There are many ways to treat insomnia. First, talk to your doctor. To diagnose the condition, your doctor may ask you to keep track of your sleeping patterns.
The following are some options for insomnia treatment:
- Combination of therapy and medication
You will likely experience better sleep and fewer morning headaches if you reduce your insomnia.
Your sleep patterns may be disrupted by medications, which can lead to early morning headaches and disturbed sleep. If you think your medication is causing your headaches, talk to your doctor.
Sleep disturbances can be caused by some drugs that are used to treat headaches. Beta-blocker therapy, for example, is known to cause vivid dreams and even nightmares. Some drugs such as benzodiazepines that are used to treat sleep disorders can trigger or worsen headaches.
A risk is medication overuse headache (MOH). You run the risk that your headaches will get worse if you take pain relief too often to reduce your headache pain.
Your occasional headaches could become chronic. These headaches can be caused by prescription or over-the-counter painkillers.
Alcohol and hangovers
Alcohol abuse can lead to headaches in the morning. Alcohol abuse can lead to a lack of sleep or an early morning headache similar to a hangover.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that the amount of alcohol that causes a hangover varies by person. The NIAAA warns that if you drink to intoxication, you are likely to have a hangover the following day.
Research suggests that many adults have had an excessive amount of alcohol in their lives. If so, chances are that you’ve experienced headaches as a result.
After a night out on the town, your blood alcohol level drops to normal or close. You start to experience headaches.
There are a few things that can cause them. Drinking alcohol can lead to increased urine production, which can lead to dehydration. Headaches can also be caused by alcohol, as it causes blood vessels to grow.
You may also experience a headache.
- A lot of thirsts
- A shaky feeling
- Concentration problems
- Dry mouth
- Poor sleep
- Rapid heartbeat
- Tired feeling
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience more severe symptoms such as confusion, seizures, slow breathing, or loss of consciousness.
According to the NIAAA, time is the best cure for a hangover. These popular remedies are not effective:
- Drinking an alcoholic drink the next morning
- Take a shower
OTC pain medication, such as Acetaminophen, can be used if morning headaches are caused by alcohol consumption. It helps people to keep hydrated and allows them to rest until the effects wear down.
There are many online claims of hangover cures, but none have been proven to work. Reducing alcohol intake is the only way to prevent hangovers.
A person might consider seeking help if this seems difficult. Referring to specialists in this field can be done by a doctor.
A doctor should be consulted if a headache is a side effect of a medication. They might be able to suggest alternative treatments or dose adjustments.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
Your jaw could be the cause of your headaches, which are often experienced in the morning. Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of temporomandibular disorder (TMJ). TMJ headache is even a name for it.
TMJ disorders (TMJD), which can cause headaches, stiffness, pain, and clicking in the jaws, are known as TMJ disorders. These disorders are caused by a malfunctioning of the TMJ. This joint is what allows you to talk, chew food and move your jaw side-to-side.
Your TMJD will be diagnosed and treated to treat your headaches. Sometimes, just resting your TMJ can be enough to relieve your symptoms. You may also need to consider:
- Lessening stress
- Limit jaw movement to the maximum extent possible
- Jaw-stretching exercises
- Avoid hard and sticky foods by choosing soft foods
Circadian rhythm disorders
Research has shown that cluster headaches and migraine attacks can be caused by disturbances in the circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythms, which are biological cycles that last approximately 24 hours, are shared by humans and animals as well as plants and bacteria. The sleep-wake cycle is the most well-known circadian rhythm.
According to the research, 82% of cluster headache sufferers had headaches at the exact same time every day. The most common time for headaches was at 2 a.m. Researchers suggested that the circadian rhythm may be a contributing factor to the headache cycle.
The Migraine Trust recommends that you use your circadian rhythm in your favor to avoid headaches. They recommend that you have regular sleeping and wake time. Particularly:
- Prior to bed, reduce screen time
- Every day, get up and go to bed at the same time every day.
- To help your body reset, spend some time outdoors during daylight hours.
- You should know how much sleep you need. Adults usually need 6-8 hours of sleep per night.
- You can make your bed as comfortable and restful as possible by limiting the number of electronic devices in your bedroom.
Morning headaches can be a sign of a brain tumor. A regular headache may be a sign of a brain tumor, but the likelihood of it is not if you only have a morning headache.
According to the National Cancer Center, brain tumors almost always present with other neurological symptoms. Some of these symptoms could include:
- Having trouble staying focused
- Headaches that are persistent or severe.
- Language or speech problems
- Nausea or vomiting
- Swelling around the eye or vision problems
- Speech difficulties
- These conditions should be treated immediately by a doctor.
- Personality changes
- Paralysis or weakness
Morning headaches can be prevented by changing your diet. Healthy eating habits can reduce the likelihood of experiencing headaches in the morning. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 1 in 5 headache sufferers may be food sensitive.
13 common triggers that cause morning headaches
- Artificial sweeteners
- Aged cheeses
- Cultured milk products
- Monosodium glutamate
- Nitrates, nitrites
- Smoked fish
- Sauteed meats
Headaches can be caused by dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, low blood sugar, or both. Drink plenty of water, don’t take caffeine if you suffer from chronic headaches, and ensure your blood sugar levels are normal.
Both being overweight and being underweight can be associated with a higher incidence of morning headaches. A bad diet can lead to obesity.
Missing meals can cause headache pain in migraine sufferers. A migraine can be caused by missing dinner or waking up early.
Can dehydration cause morning headaches? Yes, dehydration can cause morning headaches. Your brain shrinks when you are dehydrated. This pulls away from your skull. This shrinking causes headaches.
Morning headaches are often caused by too much sleep, particularly if it’s not on a regular basis. Although the exact cause is not known, it is believed to be due to disruptions in the brain’s natural circadian rhythms and neural pathways.
Oversleeping can cause headaches in the morning. To avoid this, you should restore your natural wake-sleep rhythm by getting up every day at the same time and going to bed at the same time each night.
Oversleeping could be a sign of depression or underlying medical conditions. Talk to your doctor if you are having trouble maintaining a consistent sleeping schedule.
Allergens at Home
After sleeping for eight hours, home allergens can cause headaches.
Two types of headaches are linked to allergies:
- Sinus headaches
- Migraine headaches
Sinus headaches are often caused by inflamed sinuses. They usually start in the morning but clear up by the afternoon. These can occur when temperatures change dramatically, such as when the seasons change. These often occur in the morning, because mucus from your sleep can collect and drain.
Mold, pets, mold, and certain foods can all trigger allergy headaches.
If you have an allergy to black mold, it can cause headaches. You can reduce mold exposure by controlling the humidity and preventing outside air from entering your home.
Rare Morning Headaches
These medical conditions can cause morning headaches rarely
- Cervicogenic headache
- Cluster headache
- Exploding head syndrome
- Musculoskeletal diseases
- High blood pressure
- Hypnic headache
- Intracranial hypotension
- Giant cell arteritis
Other health conditions
An additional health condition may cause headaches in the morning. You may experience headaches from a number of health conditions. They might not be related to your sleeping patterns. Musculoskeletal conditions can cause morning headaches.
Discuss all symptoms with your doctor. It is possible that you may have a different condition.
Waking up with headaches: Types of headaches
A headache may cause dull, sharp, or throbbing sensations. The headache may last for just a few minutes or it can last for several days.
According to the International Headache Society, there are 150 types of headaches. These headaches are most common in the morning:
- cluster headache
- Hypnic headache
- tension headache
- paroxysmal hemicrania
These are some factors and conditions that can lead to early morning headaches.
Morning Headaches: Treatment
Your doctor will need to treat your headaches if you have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or insomnia. Your doctor may prescribe medications, devices, such as a mouthguard, CPAP machine, or psychotherapy.
Many studies have shown that CPAP machines are a great treatment.
Other causes may require additional treatments. You might also consider:
- Mental health conditions. Your doctor will likely help you with medication, therapy, or both if your headaches are caused by anxiety or depression. This will help to ease your morning headaches.
- Trained muscles. A new pillow or position could help with neck pain caused by muscle strain. It will likely reduce your headaches.
- Alcohol use. Alcoholism can lead to headaches and hangovers. For help with alcohol management, consult a professional or an organization.
- TMJ disorder. A dentist or your doctor can help you with TMJ problems. A successful TMJ treatment will often lead to headache relief.
- Medication. Headaches that are caused by medication should be treated with your doctor. Your doctor can help you, even if it is an OTC medication.
- Oversleeping and circadian rhythm. This can help to resolve headaches.
- Tumors or other conditions. Treatment of health conditions must start with the root cause. Discuss your situation with your doctor to determine the best treatment.
These lifestyle and treatment changes may help to reduce morning headaches.
- High-quality, uninterrupted sleep for 7-8 hours
- Relaxation techniques to relieve stress
- Massage therapy to relieve muscle tension
- Chiropractic care
- For muscle tension, heat pack
- Cold pack for migraines
- Side effects may occur with a prescription or over-the-counter pain medication
- Do not take certain medications anymore. Get medical advice before you stop taking any medication.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and unhealthy food
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is used to treat sleep apnea.
- DNA oral appliance to treat sleep apnea or teeth grinding
- Protect your mouth from sleep apnea
7 tips for getting better sleep:
- You should reduce screen time before bed, as blue light exposure can trick your brain into believing that the sun is out.
- Reduce the temperature in your bedroom by a few degrees
- Before you go to bed, take a warm bath and then get into a cool sleep position. You naturally want to get to sleep as your body temperature drops.
- Avoid exercising within the first hour of bedtime. Exercise can raise your body temperature and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Consume caffeine no later than two hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, sodas and chocolate.
- Drink no more fluids within the first few hours after bedtime.
- Get to sleep and get up every morning.
Make lifestyle changes
Sometimes lifestyle changes can help with migraine attacks and morning headaches.
The American Migraine Foundation suggests the following lifestyle choices to manage headaches: The mnemonic name SEEDS is used to represent them.
- Sleep: Create a healthy sleeping environment.
- E – Exercise: Regular exercise can reduce migraine attacks’ intensity and frequency.
- E – Eat: A healthy diet is essential. Hydration is important.
- D-Daily: Record the date, severity, as well as probable causes of your headaches. This will allow your doctor to diagnose the reason for your headaches.
- Stress: Meditation, yoga, journaling, or any other practice that helps you to calm down and reduce stress in your life will be helpful.
When should you see a doctor?
Some morning headaches can be relieved by simple lifestyle changes. However, if they persist, it is best to consult a doctor. This is particularly important for people over 50, children, or who have had serious illnesses such as cancer.
If any of these symptoms occur, seek immediate medical attention.
- Severe headaches that cause stiffness in the neck, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
- Even if the headache does not start immediately following the injury, it can cause headaches.
- Headache is characterized by confusion, weakness, double vision, or loss of consciousness.
- Sudden changes in the pattern or severity of headaches
- Headache that causes weakness, numbness, or facial drooping.
- Seizures or headaches accompanied by shortness of breath.
A headache could be an indicator of many conditions. These conditions can be reduced by people making lifestyle changes. They may find relaxation techniques to help with anxiety or teeth grinding.
Other cases may require home remedies that are not sufficient. A mouthguard is necessary to protect the jaw joint and teeth of someone with bruxism.
Talking to a doctor is advisable for anyone who suffers from severe or frequent morning headaches. Headaches can be prevented by treating the root cause.
Early morning headaches need to be treated according to their cause. You may be able to manage your headaches by changing your lifestyle, sleeping better, or getting a new pillow depending on the cause.
Talking to your doctor about headaches is a good idea, especially if the cause is an underlying condition. The headaches will improve with the right treatment once you have determined the cause.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I wake up with a headache?
Common causes include sleep apnea and migraines. Teeth grinding, alcohol abuse, and certain medications may also lead to headaches. Sometimes, a combination of conditions or habits can cause a morning headache.
There are many reasons morning headaches may occur. One may feel them occasionally after experiencing stress or a bad night's rest.
Your body's physiology may have changed, and early morning headaches could be a result.
Your body may experience a decrease in internal pain relief during the early hours of the morning. Your body might also produce more adrenalin, which can lead to migraine episodes.
Morning headaches can wake you up at 4 a.m. or may even be present as soon as you get up. These are the most common types of morning headaches:
- Tension headaches
- Cluster headache
Migraine attacks, which are very common in headaches, occur most frequently in the early morning. Migraine is the third most common illness in the world. Nearly 1 of 4 U.S. households have someone who has it.
Sleep disorders and other disturbances may lead to headaches, particularly migraine. Emerging research has shown that sleep disturbances can cause migraine episodes and may be a precursor to migraine disease.
More severe and frequent migraines can be associated with sleep disorders, which could lead to chronic conditions.
Research suggests that sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or poor quality sleep, can be associated with frequent and severe headaches.
About 50 percent of people who experience either tension-type headaches or migraine have insomnia.
What sleeping position is best for headaches?
How can you avoid getting headaches by sleeping in the most comfortable position? Doctor Adegoke says that sleeping on your stomach can lead to headaches because your back is arched. She points out that your neck is in this position because it is twisting. She shares that sleeping on your back or side is better for your spine alignment.
Why do I get a headache when I sleep?
Hypnic headaches are often experienced during rapid eye movement sleep (REM). It is possible that an area in the brain responsible for processing pain is activated and this could lead to a hypnic migraine. Hypnic headaches could also be related to melatonin.
Can dehydration cause morning headaches?
Even mild dehydration can lead to headaches. Other symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, extreme thirst, dry mouth, and dizziness can also cause headaches. Drinking water, resting, and using over-the-counter pain relief medications can often help with dehydration headaches.
Why are brain tumor headaches in the morning?
When you lie down, the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain builds up in your head. This pressure builds up in the brain and is accompanied by the pressure from the growing tumor. It causes headaches early in the morning. The day goes by and the headaches associated with brain tumors usually subside.
How can I stop waking up with a headache?
Good sleep hygiene means that you go to bed and wake up every day at the same time. You should only use your bed for sleeping, and not for any other purposes such as watching TV. Avoid eating heavy meals or stimulants like alcohol close to bedtime. Reduce your screen time at night.
Can your pillow cause headaches?
Too high pillows can lead to a rounding of the neck and head, which can create tension in the neck muscles. These muscles can become tight and cause headaches when you wake up in the morning.
Prevalence and risk factors of morning headaches in the general population https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14718329/
Comorbid Sleep Disturbances in Neurologic Disorders https://medicinainternaelsalvador.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/comorbid_sleep_disturbances_in_neurologic.15.pdf