Waking up refreshed is the hallmark of a good night’s sleep. However, for many, mornings begin with an unwelcome headache. The burning question arises: what’s causing this discomfort during what should be hours of rejuvenation? Is it the quality of sleep, an undiagnosed health condition, or external factors we might overlook? We’ve researched and compiled the potential reasons and remedies for your headache after waking up.
Did You Know? Many aspects of sleep, like deep sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring risk, the tendency to be an insomniac, etc, are highly influenced by genes. Your ancestry test DNA data includes 700,000 markers, which can be used to learn everything about sleep. Learn more.
Relationship Between Sleep and Headaches
The association between headaches and sleep disorders was recognized well over a century ago.
But the relationship between them is a classic chicken-or-egg situation.
Inadequate or irregular sleep often sets the stage for headaches, exacerbating their intensity or frequency.
The disruption of the body’s internal circadian rhythm, responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle, can cause alterations in neurotransmitter levels.
These changes, coupled with the release of stress hormones due to sleep deprivation, can provoke or intensify headaches.
Conversely, chronic headaches can disrupt sleep, leading to a cyclical relationship where poor sleep worsens headaches, which in turn affects sleep quality further.
Hence, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and ensuring a sleep duration of 7-9 hours nightly is essential.
Recognizing and acting upon this relationship can significantly improve overall health and well-being.
Types Of Morning Headaches
7 Reasons Why You Have A Headache After Waking Up
Approximately 1 out of every 13 people experiences morning headaches.
They affect women (and those assigned females at birth) more than men (and those assigned males at birth).
Those between the ages of 45 and 64 are more prone to it.
When we wake up, during the transition period between sleep and wakefulness, the brain is more sensitive to changes in the body and may be more susceptible to pain.
Due to sleep deprivation and changes in sleep patterns, people with insomnia are at a high risk of experiencing morning headaches and migraines.
Insomnia can interfere with sleep by:
- Making it harder to fall asleep
- Awakening you in the middle of sleep
- Causing restless sleep
Characterized by disrupted breathing during sleep, apnea can result in pressing pain on both sides of the head in the mornings.
Snoring is the most common symptom of sleep apnea.
A brain chemical called serotonin signals your brain when it is time to wake up. Continuing to sleep after this can result in dehydration and other kinds of strain on your body. This can make you more prone to experiencing a headache after waking up.
Also called sleep bruxism, this is a tension-related disorder that causes a person to grind or clench their teeth during nighttime. The person may not even realize that they are doing this.
It can affect jaw joints and contribute to Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders, a painful jaw condition. Studies have established a connection between sleep bruxism and morning headaches.
Not just morning headaches, but dehydration is a common cause of all headaches in general. While inadequate water intake results in dehydration, it can also be caused due to excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.
Not having enough water during the day and before bedtime can result in dehydration while asleep and a subsequent headache after waking up.
Muscle soreness and pain during physical activity are caused due to lactic acid buildup. Similarly, sleeping in the wrong position or on an uncomfortable pillow can cause muscle contraction, limiting blood flow.
This results in the buildup of lactic acid, carbon-di-oxide, and water. They can contribute to morning headaches.
Brain chemicals linked to sleep also play a role in pain, as seen before. Additionally, they also play a role in mood regulation.
Other FAQs About Sleep And Headaches
When Should I Be Worried About Morning Headaches?
If your morning headaches happen rarely and are more of a one-off situation, then it may not be a cause of concern.
But if it happens frequently, talk to your healthcare provider to explore the cause behind the headaches.
Can A Pillow Cause Headache?
Pillows play a crucial role in ensuring that your neck and spine are adequately supported during sleep.
The pillow should align your neck & head as though you’re standing upright.
Pillows that are too soft might not provide enough neck and spine support, whereas overly firm pillows can force your body into an unnatural angle.
Both of these can result in morning headaches.
It’s essential to regularly assess and replace your pillow to maintain the right sleep posture.
Can Sleeping In A Cold Room Cause Headaches?
A cold room can cause constriction of blood vessels, affecting blood flow.
This can result in waking up with body aches, including a headache.
What Deficiency Causes Morning Headaches?
B vitamins are important for converting a harmful amino acid called homocysteine into a safe form. Any B vitamin deficiency can cause a homocysteine build-up, leading to headaches.
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with frequent headaches.
Magnesium plays an important role in several body functions, like regulating blood pressure and glucose levels, muscle and nerve function, etc. Therefore, a deficiency in this mineral can contribute to migraines.
Why Do I Wake Up With A Headache Behind My Eyes?
Headache pain behind the eyes can be severe or mild, sharp or dull, or a feeling of pressure.
Headache behind the eyes can happen due to several reasons like tension headaches, eyestrain, sinusitis, eye strain, untreated myopia or hypermetropia, etc.
Sleep Genetic Test
The Gene Sleep panel of Xcode Life includes 16 important health aspects, covering important traits like sleep apnea risk, snoring tendency, deep sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, etc.
If you have done an ancestry genetic test with companies like 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, etc., you can learn about your sleep health in just 3 steps.
- Download your DNA raw data from your service provider
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- Upload your raw data and receive your results within 24 hours.
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Not yet tested?
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Once you receive your kits, you can follow the instructions given by the respective service providers to collect your sample and ship it.
After you receive your DNA test results from the kit, you can upload your DNA data to our secure platform.
Tips To Prevent A Headache After Waking Up
If you are experiencing morning headaches daily or frequently, it is important to dig deep into what’s causing them.
Once you identify that, your doctor can provide appropriate measures to prevent them.
Headaches due to sleep disorders
Sleep disorders like apnea, insomnia, or bruxism have specific management strategies.
Severe apnea is commonly treated using CPAP machines.
Mild insomnia can be fixed through lifestyle interventions, while moderate to severe insomnia may require medications or cognitive behavioral therapy.
A common and effective measure to manage bruxism is getting a custom-made mouthguard.
Headaches due to sleep position or pillows
Side and back sleeping helps with favorable spine alignment and thus can help prevent headaches.
Research suggests latex pillows are superior to others when it comes to preventing headaches after waking up.
Headaches due to improper nutrition
Depending on your activity levels and lifestyle, it is crucial to consume 2-5 liters of water daily. Dehydration is a common cause of headache.
A well-rounded diet that helps meet all vitamin and mineral requirements can also help prevent headaches caused due to nutritional deficiencies. If required, contact your medical practitioner for appropriate supplementation.
Other Science-Backed Tips To Prevent Headaches After Waking Up
Maintain a regular sleep schedule
One of the most well-documented ways to prevent morning headaches is by getting adequate and consistent sleep.
- Why? Sleep deprivation or irregular sleep patterns can trigger headaches in many people. Your body thrives on routine, and setting a consistent bedtime and wake-up time can help reduce the frequency of morning headaches.
- How? Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
- Why? Both alcohol and caffeine can interfere with your sleep cycle. Alcohol may cause you to wake up frequently throughout the night, and while caffeine can help you wake up, its withdrawal can cause headaches in some individuals.
- How? Try to limit alcohol, especially close to bedtime, and if you consume caffeine, try to do so consistently in terms of amount and timing to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Why? Chronic stress, or even short-term intense stress, can lead to tension-type headaches. Stress leads to muscular tension, particularly in the neck and shoulders, which can translate into headaches upon waking.
- How? Techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and meditation can be effective in managing stress. Consider setting aside time each day to practice these techniques or any other relaxation method that works for you.
Summary: Headache After Waking Up
- The connection between sleep & headaches: Inadequate sleep disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, leading to neurotransmitter imbalances and headaches.
- Types of morning headaches: These range from migraines and tension headaches to cluster, hypnic, and paroxysmal hemicrania.
- Reasons for morning headaches: Causes include insomnia, sleep apnea, oversleeping, teeth grinding, dehydration, muscle strain, and mood disorders.
- Pillow & sleep environment: Incorrect pillows can cause headaches, and cold room temperatures or nutrient deficiencies might contribute.
- Prevention tips: Treat underlying sleep disorders, choose proper sleep positions and pillows, and maintain hydration and a balanced diet. Ensure a consistent sleep schedule, moderate alcohol and caffeine intake, and manage stress through relaxation techniques.