Why You’re Waking Up With A Headache And How To Improve

For most of us, waking up after a night’s sleep means feeling refreshed and ready to go. After all, sleep is rejuvenating and restorative. Unfortunately, some wake up with uncomfortable headaches that can make starting the day stressful. According to a study by Maurice M. Ohayon, one in 13 people have chronic morning headaches, and it’s believed that sleep disorders are the culprit. That shouldn’t be a surprise since sleep and headaches are controlled by the same regions of the brain. If you’re part of the morning headache statistic, it’s important to address the cause so that you can find ways to sleep better. The good news is that most headaches aren’t dangerous although they can certainly feel like it.

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What Causes Morning Headaches?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can cause morning headaches as it prevents the free flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide. OSA occurs when the airway collapses and prevents oxygen from being breathed in and carbon dioxide from being expelled. When you can’t breathe in properly, the brain tries to preserve oxygen. Since carbon dioxide can’t be expelled how it should be, it causes the brain’s arteries to dilate and increase blood flow. This builds pressure in the skull and can lead to pain when you wake up in the morning.


Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders that can trigger morning headaches. Not sleeping enough can leave you stressed, which can, in turn, make it difficult to sleep at night. The cycle goes on, and it may become chronic over time. More than half of migraine sufferers say they have trouble falling and staying asleep, which is a characteristic of insomnia. The Headache Center of Atlanta studied migraineurs who reported that they had difficulty sleeping. The study found that migraines were triggered by a disturbance in sleep in 50 percent of patients. Meanwhile, 71 percent said that they woke up from sleep due to headaches.

Tooth Grinding

Tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, is the act of unconsciously grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw at night. It affects 10 percent of people and around 15 percent of children. It can cause morning headaches as it tenses the muscles of the jaw and face. It’s not known what causes bruxism, but it can be triggered by sleep apnea, stress, an abnormal bite, and crooked teeth. Those with bruxism may not know they have it, but if you wake up with a dull headache and a sore jaw, it’s likely you do.


Another cause of morning headaches is snoring. It’s unclear what the connection is, but there is a link. A study by the National Institute on Aging found a relationship between snoring and headaches after examining 206 people with chronic daily headaches and occasional headaches. Those with chronic daily headaches were twice as likely to be chronic snorers. According to the study author, the snoring could be causing headaches or vice versa.

Change In Sleep Schedule

Deviating from your normal sleep habits, either by sleeping too little or too much, can lead to headaches. In the case of sleep loss, Missouri State University found that rats deprived of REM sleep secreted high levels of proteins that trigger pain. Meanwhile, people who are prone to headaches can find that oversleeping causes pain in the head. It’s uncertain how this happens, but researchers suggest that fluctuations in neurotransmitters in the brain could be the cause. Sleeping too much may lower serotonin, which is a chemical linked to headaches and mood. When there’s a shortage of serotonin, you may get headaches and feel depressed and irritable.


Hangovers can be brutal and are a reminder never to drink too much! The accompanying morning headache is believed to be caused by chemicals in alcohol interacting with chemicals in the brain. Known as a hangover headache or a delayed-alcohol induced headache, it usually occurs the morning after drinking. Alcohol also tends to trigger headaches in people who are prone to headache disorders.

How To Reduce Morning Headaches

Follow A Consistent Sleep Schedule

Sleeping and waking at different times disrupts your body clock. It can’t adjust to a routine, and you may find it difficult to feel sleepy when you need to. You may also end up sleeping too little or too much instead of the recommended 7-8 hours a night. Sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule – even during the weekends and holidays – can reset your body clock and improve sleep quality.

Avoid Too Much Alcohol The Night Before

We’ve already seen how alcohol has the ability to cause morning headaches, so it’s best to moderate consumption or do away with it altogether. The recommended safe amount is one drink a day for women and two drinks for men.

Treat The Underlying Condition

If you know your headaches aren’t the result of drinking the night before or staying up too late, it’s likely a sleep disorder is to blame. Get yourself tested so that your doctor can come up with a treatment plan.

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Have A Relaxing Sleep Environment

Quiet, darkness and cool temperature are key to encouraging sleep so make sure your bedroom is all of these things. You should also keep it clear of clutter and distractions like electronic gadgets that can tempt you to use them instead of getting to bed. In addition, use a best mattress so there are no bumps and lumps that disturb sleep. The key is finding one that’s balanced, in other words, it should be comfortable and supportive.

Nuvanna is designed with these traits in mind. It was created by a mattress scientist with over 20 years of experience in the industry. The result is a product that aims to help you sleep better, thanks to three unique layers. The top layer is a cooling gel layer that consists of phase-changing gel particles that absorb and disperse body heat to keep you cool. The middle layer isolates motion and allows you and your bed partner to move without disturbing each other. The bottom layer provides support to the entire body and keeps the spine aligned in its neutral position.

Morning headaches are rarely the result of serious diseases. More often than not, they signal a sleep disorder or unhealthy sleep habits. If you’ve been waking up with headaches, pinpointing the cause and getting it treated or changing sleep habits can turn things around. Learning to manage stress and using relaxation techniques can also help you sleep better at night and may lower instances of morning headaches.

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