Waking up with a Headache? What Are the Causes and 9 Ways to Help You


If you start with a headache every morning, there’s a reason for that. The following findings are from American Migraine Foundation:

  • 50 percent of migraines occur during the sleeping hours of 4:00 to 9:00 am.
  • 80 percent of people with regular migraines often wake up still feeling tired.
  • More than half of patients in headache clinics also report chronic sleep issues.
  • People with sleep disorders experience headaches at 2 to 8 times the rate of others.

Obviously, there is a close relationship between sleep and headaches. When you wake up regularly with a headache, you may have what is considered an “awakening headache.” This is what separates you from other forms of headaches when you wake up or shortly afterward.

Why do sleep problems cause headaches?


All comes from your subconscious. Your brain controls your sleep, pain, and mood in the same areas.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you might expect mood or headache changes. Similarly, chronic lack of sleep increases your pain, so headaches can feel worse and make it more difficult to achieve sleep.

It’s not good that your cortisol (your stress hormone) levels are higher in the morning, while your endorphins and enkephalins (your natural painkillers) are lower.

The most common sleep problems associated with a headache after sleep

The following sleep issues are associated with morning headaches.


Insomnia or difficulty falling, staying asleep, related sleep deprivation, related depression, and stress feedback loop. Over half of migraine sufferers report sleep-onset or sleep-maintenance insomnia. The insomnia problem is that it often leads to a prolonged lack of sleep. Migraine patients with insomnia, for example, tend to sleep 6 hours or less a night. Even a sleep deprivation night will exacerbate the next day’s mood, memory, and concentration. It can develop over time into depression or anxiety that it can not fall asleep.

Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea

In addition to insomnia, the most common sleep problems reported by headache patients are snoring or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Though OSA researchers have not yet established a causal link between sleep apnea and migraines. Sleep apnea, however, triggers sleep disturbances such as insomnia that can cause headaches in the morning, and some research has shown that treating sleep apnea decreases headaches ‘ number and intensity.

What does a sleep apnea headache feel like?

More oxygen does make its way to your brain when you stop breathing regularly during the night. Together with prolonged daytime drowsiness, headaches are typically the signs most concerned among sleeping apnea sufferers as they may not be conscious of snoring symptoms or breathing breaks.

Sleep movement disorders

messy bed

Individuals with sleep movement disorders also experience headaches in the morning, including:

  • Sleep bruxism: a sleep disorder where people grit or clench their teeth while sleeping unknowingly. It has to do with depression and often leads to headaches.
  • Restless legs syndrome, A disease in which people feel an extremely uncomfortable feeling of “pins and needles” in their lower limbs while in a supine position, followed by an equally intense desire to move them to find relief.

Hypnic headache

Hypnic headache syndrome, aka the “alarm clock” describes a situation in which you wake up due to a headache during the night (1:00 to 3:00 am). The early midnight time separates these from waking headaches. Studies thus far agree that this is a relatively rare and mild disorder, although it is unpleasant and the subsequent lack of sleep that cause the other forms of headaches discussed in this article.

Other causes of headaches

Migraine sufferers are also much more likely to experience prolonged daytime sleepiness due to the sleep problems mentioned above.

Additionally, waking up with headaches has been tied to:

  • Circadian rhythm disorders
  • Narcolepsy
  • Sleepwalking
  • Allergens in the bedroom atmosphere
  • Tension with headaches from sleeping with the wrong pillow or in an exceptionally cold room
  • Some abrupt changes in sleep schedule, such as over-sleeping or sleep deprivation

How to reduce sleep-related headaches


Here’s the good news if you suffer from headaches in the morning: improving your sleep always improves the symptoms of migraine. There are seven approaches with less headaches to enjoy better sleep.

1. Your bedroom should be conducive to sleep.

A cool, low to mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for sleep. Something warmer than that, and you might have a tension headache. Keep dim, quiet and free of clutter in your bedroom. This will prevent loud distractions or visual stimuli that can cause stress and anxiety.

2. Use comfortable pillow and mattresses.

The cure can be as simple as getting a better pillow if you suffer from tension headaches so you don’t strain your neck while you’re sleeping. In order to keep your neck and spine balanced when sleeping, side sleepers should be sure to get one with a proper height.

To decide whether it might be time for a new mattress, assess your sleep position, body weight, and other health factors. Memory foam, for example, does wonders for relief from the pressure point, but it can make hot sleepers even hotter, disrupting sleep and leading to headaches of sleep deprivation.

When allergies and sinus congestion are causing your headaches, consider ways to remove allergens from your sleep. Get a HEPA filter and invest in sheets and bedding that are hypoallergenic. There are even antimicrobial mattress options that are fully hypoallergenic, such as all-latex beds.

3. Create consistency

Too much or too little sleep is a common cause of headaches. Reduce headaches induced by lack of sleep by regularly getting enough, quality sleep. Set aside enough time to sleep seven to eight hours a night.

4. Fix your snoring

Headaches can be prevented by treating snoring or sleep apnea. Invest in chinstraps, mouthpieces, or pillows for anti-snoring. Talk to your doctor if you believe you have something more extreme, such as sleep apnea. Until fitting you for a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system, they will order additional overnight sleep tests.

5. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine all interfere with sleep. Alcohol also induces dehydration, another risk factor for headaches, and chronic headaches are associated with frequent caffeine consumption.

Can dehydration cause morning headaches?

Dehydration headache may occur after sweating when the body loses vital fluids for proper functioning. This process causes the brain to pull away from the skull, causing pain and leading to headache with dehydration.

Drinking coffee or alcohol late at night can cause you to urinate during the night, leading to disturbance of sleep leading to headaches. Alternatively, drink plenty of water during the day, but limit your intake of liquids in the hour before bed and use the toilet before going to sleep.

Also, be careful not to become reliant on any of these things, as withdrawal itself can cause headache. The same applies to pain relivers. Because you have been sleeping for several hours without the drug, by the time you wake up, your headache is weak and may induce a relapse or rebound.

The one caveat to all this: caffeine can be an effective treatment if you suffer from hypnic headaches.

6. Keep a sleeping journal


This will help your doctor determine the cause of your headache and associated sleep problems and advise your treatment plan. Remember the severity and position of the pain and any other signs when you have headaches. Remember when you go to bed, when you wake up, your overall sleep time, and any sleep problems (such as your partner’s snoring complaints or waking at night).

7. Avoid napping during daytime

If you have poor sleep hygiene, when you wake up from a nap, this may be a factor in having a headache. If you’re napping because, due to insomnia, you don’t get enough sleep at night, sleeping too little can also trigger a headache that naps don’t always help relieve.

8. Seek out professional alternative therapies.

Besides insomnia, you are suffering from depression or anxiety, remember that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has proved to be an extremely effective treatment. Patients consult with a psychotherapist to learn how to identify the anxiety-producing thoughts and behaviors that prevent them from getting good sleep, and then learn how to substitute them with healthy thoughts and habits. In some cases, symptoms can be eliminated or significantly reduced by just a few sessions.

9. Take melatonin

Taking melatonin may have an anti-inflammatory effect in addition to helping you fall asleep faster. It can reduce or avoid the migraine symptoms in the case of cluster headaches and some migraines.