Why do I wake up with a headache every morning?

Why do I wake up with a headache every morning ? I Intushealthcare

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Last updated on May 31st, 2024 at 09:45 am

Are you waking up tired with a headache?

It is estimated that as many as one in every thirteen people suffer from morning headaches on a regular basis. (1) Due to the variety of contributors which can cause morning headaches finding the source of the problem is the best step towards selecting the most appropriate method of treatment.

Waking up with a headache can be caused by various factors, and it’s important to consider multiple potential causes. If you frequently wake up with headaches or if they are severe and persistent, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional. They can evaluate your symptoms and medical history and conduct a physical examination to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment options. A number of health or sleep disorders can cause morning headaches. Here are a few possible reasons why you might experience headaches upon waking up:

Causes of headaches in the morning

  • Sleep Apnoea
  • Lack of sleep or Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Teeth grinding (also known as Bruxism)
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Some medications
  • Stress and anxiety

Sleep Apnoea headaches

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a condition where your airways either partially or fully close whilst sleeping. This occurs when throat muscles relax, causing sufferers to wake choking or gasping for air. Some people will not even know they are experiencing Sleep Apnoea events. Sleep Apnoea can cause frequent or daily morning headaches due to decreased oxygen levels during the night.

Around 18% of those with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) wake in the morning with a headache (3). Other common symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea include:

Why do I wake up with a headache every morning? FREE Online Sleep Apnoea Risk Test | Intus Healthcare

Insomnia

Known for disrupting your circadian rhythm or more commonly known as sleep cycles, insomnia can drastically impact your daily life. Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterised by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep. When you don’t get enough quality sleep or have disrupted sleep patterns, it can trigger or exacerbate headaches, and is widely known to be a reason why you may be waking up with a headache.

Migraines

Ten per cent of the global population is affected by migraines (2), so if this is you, you are not alone! These types of headaches can be recognised by nausea with occasional vomiting, sensitivity to light and extreme pain. Migraines tend to be more intense in the morning hours, and any medication taken overnight will wear off by this time.

Morning headaches caused by Temporomandibular Joint Disorder – (TMJ)

If you suffer from TMJ, you will be familiar with the sensation of holding increased tension in the muscles around your jaw, frequently resulting in morning headaches due to the impact of the pressure applied.

Symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Aching pain in and around your ear.
  • Headache around your temples.
  • Locking of the joint or grinding noises when you move your jaw.
  • Facial aches and pains.
  • Tenderness or pain in your jaw.

The most common treatment method is a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD). The device works by gently pulling your lower jaw and tongue forward, creating more space at the back of the throat and reducing and preventing snoring and Apnoea events.

Medication

Some medication side effects can induce headaches in the morning, particularly if you are already taking any prescription painkillers. If this is a consistent issue since starting a new medication, or it is something you experience when taking a specific type of medication, it would be best to consult with your doctor.

Alcohol consumption

Alcohol reduces how much vasopressin your body produces. Vasopressin is an antidiuretic hormone that helps to prevent dehydration. When you drink alcohol, you suppress this hormone, which prevents the regulation of water in your body, resulting in dehydration. Dehydration can trigger headaches, and if you consume alcohol in the evening, the dehydration can persist overnight, resulting in a morning headaches. (3)

Additionally, alcohol can affect the quality of your sleep, leading to disturbances in your sleep cycle. Poor sleep can trigger headaches or make existing headaches worse, which may be experienced upon waking up.

To minimise the chance of experiencing alcohol-related headaches, it’s advisable to drink alcohol in moderation and to stay well-hydrated by alternating alcoholic beverages with water. Additionally, allowing for adequate time to metabolise alcohol before going to bed and practicing good sleep hygiene can help reduce the likelihood of waking with a headache.

When should I be worried about morning headaches?

If you are suffering from morning headaches at least three times a week and they last for more than four hours, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. If left untreated, other health conditions can develop, causing long-term complications such as:

  • Sensory problems (i.e. photophobia.)
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Panic disorders.
  • Migraines, when left untreated, can even lead to suffering from a stroke or other cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and hypertension.

How can I stop waking up with a headache?

Waking up with a headache could be a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). Fortunately, it is very easy to determine whether or not this is present, so an In-Home Sleep Test should be considered.

Commonly used for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea testing, this method is non-invasive and is used to monitor your sleep overnight. The device will determine whether Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is present, and the report will assess the severity and recommended treatment options.

Treatment options for OSA

Those who are confirmed to have OSA may be recommended to use CPAP therapy for treating the condition. This treatment will relieve symptoms of OSA as well as morning headaches caused by the sleep disorder. A CPAP machine delivers air pressure to help keep the airways open, preventing the body from being deprived of oxygen and disturbing sleep.

If you are suffering from morning headaches frequently, it is advised to speak to a healthcare professional. For further information regarding our sleep testing service or for any advice on Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, you can contact us for help.

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References:

  1. Ohayon, M.M. (2004) “Prevalence and risk factors of morning headaches in the general population,” Archives of Internal Medicine, 164(1), p. 97. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.164.1.97.
  2. Walter, K. (2022) “What is Migraine?,” JAMA, 327(1), p. 93. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2021.21857.
  3. Russell, M.B., Kristiansen, H.A. and Kværner, K.J. (2014) “Headache in sleep apnea syndrome: Epidemiology and pathophysiology,” Cephalalgia, 34(10), pp. 752–755. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0333102414538551.