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Waking Up With Headache: 7 Reasons Why

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Waking up with headache: If you are waking up with headaches and feeling irritated in the mornings, you are not alone. Generally, headaches—be it any time of your day—are not just annoying but are something that millions of people throughout the world have it every day.

The underlying reason for morning headaches are many. Often, this can be classified as a migraine type or could be something else. Getting such headaches once in a while after inadequate night’s sleep is okay but experiencing it pretty often isn’t good.

Before we get to know more reasons you are waking up with headaches, here’s some noteworthy statistics.

Waking up with headache – Facts you need to know:

According to research, 1 out of 13 people suffer from morning headaches, which might be due to the change in the body’s physiology. Moreover, mornings tend to be especially hard on the body as our tolerance of pain is at the lower rung, leading to adrenal secretion that results in migraines.

can you catch up on sleep

Causes of Morning Headaches

So the next time you wonder, “Why am I waking up with headache?” these are some potential causes to pay attention to:

Using a wrong pillow

Yup, the reason could be as simple as that! A tension headache triggers when your scalp and neck muscles become strained. This scenario is true when you remain in the same position for some hours at night.

That’s why choosing a good pillow is crucial. It keeps your neck and head aligned in a correct, neutral position, just the way it will be when you are standing. Also, avoid sleeping in an extremely cold room, as this is also another cause for neck and head strain, triggering a bad headache.

Related: Can you catch up on sleep? Here’s the gist.

Insomnia

Believe it or not, insomnia affects your overall sleep pattern and leads to sleep deprivation over time. This is one of the prevalent causes of a morning headache.

Insomnia prevents you from getting adequate rest by:

  • Making you feel restless during sleep
  • Keeping you awake whenever you want to fall asleep

Improper sleep can give rise to migraine headaches. So talk to your doctor so that you can get the right help at the right time to improve your sleep patterns. Treating a condition like insomnia includes a combination of both therapy and medications. Reducing insomnia results in better sleep and relieves morning headaches too.

waking up with headache

According to sleep.org, individuals with certain sleep disorders or poor sleep quality are 2-8 times highly likely to get frequent morning headaches than the ones without any sleep disorders.

Teeth Grinding (or Bruxism)

If you have the habit of grinding your teeth, then you are at a greater risk of waking up with headaches most mornings. This habit can either occur during night (probably as a sleep disorder) and is called sleep bruxism.

Generally, headaches are mild in nature, which can be felt near the temples. Grinding your teeth aggravates this region even more. Further, it even leaves your teeth damaged and jaw in pain. Treatment might involve practicing stress reduction methods, behaviour changes, and using a good mouth guard.

Disturbances during sleep

According to the American Migraine Foundation, excess or less sleeping contributes to a morning headache. In fact, headaches and sleep problems have interdependent relationships.

While lack of good sleep leads to morning headaches, conditions like hypnic headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines can cause severe sleep disturbances, aggravating the problem even more.

waking up with headache

Migraines might be another major reason for the cause of early morning headaches. Surprisingly, this research reveals that more than 29.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraines. Not only does this headache type affect the way you function but also results in throbbing headaches. These headaches tend to occur anywhere from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m., resulting in a very disturbed sleep.

Use of drugs and alcohol

This 2004 research reported an association between morning headaches and use of drugs and alcohol. The researchers found that people who consume over 6 alcohol servings per day tend to have more frequent morning headaches than the ones who consume only 1 to 2 servings a day.

Also, individuals who take medications for depression, insomnia, or anxiety like Valium, Zyprexa or Xanax were reported to have 7.6% – 17.5% higher rates of morning headaches.

Strained muscles

Morning headaches might also be the consequence of strained neck muscles. You might need to assess the position you sleep in and the pillow that you use, as both of these can ease your morning headaches to a great extent.

Pillows do a great deed in maintaining a good sleep position, supporting your spine and neck in turn. But yeah, which pillow works the best requires some trial & error.

A pillow is good only if it can help keep your neck and head aligned correctly in the same way when you are standing.

On the other hand, soft pillows won’t be able to hold your spine and neck up correctly. Hard pillows might create significant angles for your body. So try replacing your pillow whenever needed to sustain the right sleeping posture.

Snoring

Yup! Snoring is one of the key signs of sleep apnea, a condition where your throat muscles relax and clog your airways. This prevents you from getting enough oxygen inside your lungs.

This raises the blood’s carbon dioxide levels and increases the head’s pressure, setting off headaches altogether. Snoring itself is another prime reason for morning headaches.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

When to Consult a Doctor?

Not all with morning headaches need to meet a doctor. With lifestyle changes, healthy eating habits, exercises, and maintaining good sleep hygiene should ease it. However, if it’s persistent and the pain is frequent and unbearable, then a visit to a doctor is a must.

Here are a few signs that require talking to a doctor:

  • Getting multiple morning headaches in a week.
  • Occurrence of new and recurring headaches, especially if you are above 50.
  • Severe or sudden headaches accompanied by stiff neck.
  • Headaches occur frequently after any head injury.
  • Headaches that are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or fever.
  • Headaches that are unexplainable.
  • Headaches that cause weakness, confusion, unconsciousness, and double vision.
  • Headaches that are severe or create changes in your sleep pattern.
  • Headaches accompanying sensation loss or weakness in any part of the body.
  • Headaches that can cause shortness of breath or seizures.

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Sleep Consultant with extensive experience who has assisted hundreds of parents with their children’s sleep issues. She also works with adults to educate, support, and motivate them to sleep better.
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Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

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Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by healh experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

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Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians