Morning Headache: Why You’re Waking up with Headaches

We all go to bed at night with intentions of waking up feeling rested, refreshed, and ready for the day. But for many people, waking up with a headache interferes with that.

Headaches are not uncommon and neither is waking up with them. There are several causes for waking up with headaches, and discovering the cause is the first step to putting a stop to them.

15 Reasons you could be waking up with a headache: 

  1. Tension/Stress. Tension headaches are typically caused by stress, anxiety, and depression. Not only will you have a dull, aching pressure in your head, you’ll also most likely feel it in your neck and shoulder muscles as well.
  1. Not getting enough sleep is known to mess with hormone production and blood pressure, and cause added stress to the body, which can cause headaches.
  1. Too much sleep. Sometimes getting too much sleep can cause you to miss your morning meal or not get your coffee in time before a headache strikes.
  1. Sleep position. Certain sleep positions can lead to bad posture and put pressure on your neck and shoulders.
  1. Incorrect pillow. Not using the correct pillow for the position you sleep in can also put pressure on your neck and shoulders.
  1. Low blood sugar. If you have difficulty regulating your blood sugar, you may wake up with headaches. Other symptoms that may come with the headaches are feeling damp or sweaty when you wake up, nausea, or feeling shaky.
  1. Teeth grinding (bruxism). Clenching or grinding your teeth during sleep can create tension in the jaw and facial muscles, causing you to wake up with a headache. Many people are unaware that they grind their teeth.
  1. Cluster headaches. Cluster headaches are usually described as a sharp pain on one side of the head, often around or behind one of the eyes. Many times this can be accompanied with a stuffy or runny nose and may last for several days.
  1. Snoring/Sleep apnea. Snoring is caused by narrowing of the airways during sleep, and sometimes snoring is a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea is characterized by shallow breathing and periods of apnea (pauses in breathing) that can last from several seconds to several minutes. When this happens, your oxygen levels are low, and you may wake up gasping for air. You may not get a good night’s rest because of this and many times, someone with sleep apnea doesn’t even know he or she has it. This can also be a cause for waking up with a headache. If left untreated, OSA can lead to more serious conditions so if you think you may have it, see your doctor.
  1. Sinusitis/Allergies. Sinus inflammation and congestion can lead to headaches. Many times sinus congestion can be related to allergies.
  1. High blood pressure. When blood pressure gets high, the force of blood through blood vessels can cause headaches. High blood pressure can be a risk factor for other serious diseases, so this needs to be addressed by your doctor.
  1. Not drinking enough water throughout the day can cause you to wake up with headaches. These headaches may also be accompanied by fatigue, dry mouth, or nausea.
  1. Caffeine or medication withdrawal. If you’re hooked on caffeine or another medication, going all night without it can cause you to wake up with a headache as a sign of withdrawal.
  1. Lifestyle habits. Lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol can cause morning headaches. Other chemicals such as perfumes could also be a factor to consider.
  1. Too much caffeine. While some caffeine in moderation can be okay or even act as a treatment for a headache, too much caffeine throughout the day can actually cause you to wake up with headaches or migraines.

 What you should do if you have been waking up with a headache:

  • See your doctor for help if you’re blood pressure is high, your blood sugar is low or high, or you snore and think you may have sleep apnea.
  • Work on getting in a regular sleep routine. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, getting at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Try sleeping in a different position. Also, there are pillows made specifically for stomach sleepers, side sleepers, etc., so make sure you have the correct one.
  • Relax Stress is a common cause for waking up with tension headaches. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and massage therapy can help to relieve stress.
  • Cut down on caffeine. Just be aware that if you quit caffeine cold turkey, you may have temporary headaches from withdrawal.
  • Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated throughout the day can help. Don’t drinking too much water before bedtime so you can sleep through the night without waking up for bathroom breaks.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Avoid chemicals or perfume that could possibly trigger your headaches.
  • If you think it may be sinus or allergy related, try a decongestant or antihistamine. It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor before starting a new medication.
  • Avoid certain foods. According to the National Headache Foundation, there are foods that may trigger headaches. These foods include:
  • Ripened cheeses such as cheddar, Emmentaler, Stilton, brie, and camembert
  • Permissible cheeses like American, cottage, cream cheese, and Velveeta
  • Chocolate
  • Fermented foods
  • Peanut butter
  • Certain breads containing cheese or chocolate
  • Some beans, such as lima beans, fava, and snow peas
  • Foods containing MSG
  • Several processed meats, such as bologna, pepperoni, salami, and hot dogs
  • Citrus fruits and bananas
  • Sour cream
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Usually, for someone that wakes up with headaches, the cause isn’t very severe. But in rare cases, headaches can be a sign of more serious conditions so it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor.

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1 thought on “Morning Headache: Why You’re Waking up with Headaches

  1. JOHN S Reply

    Very complete and comprehensive article. I have had sleep apnea since 1997 and went the CPAP route. I am currently looking into the CHIN STRAP method and plan to give it a whirl. i am so tired of the machine, hoses, being stopped at an airport with CPAP it’s driving me bonkers. We will see where this goes, a lot of good information here., thanks.

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