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Waking Up With Headaches: Causes & Solutions

Posted By: Layla

There’s nothing like waking up with a headache so powerful you’d swear a tiny man with a jackhammer had taken up residence in your frontal lobe. Nothing so terrible, that is. If you’re waking up with a headache on a regular basis, it’s time to send that pocket-sized construction worker away so you can wake up refreshed and pain-free.

Waking Up With Headaches: Causes & Solutions

Everything from environmental factors to bad bedtime habits can lead to a headache after waking up. But no matter the cause, we don’t have to tell you that starting your day with head and neck pain isn’t exactly the most enjoyable. You’ll be more productive if you can identify your headache triggers (a bad pillow or inconsistent sleep schedule could be the culprit) and address them (maybe an adjustable base bed will help).

Here are seven of the top causes of waking up with a headache and some remedies that could usher in relief.

Why Do I Wake Up With a Headache?

Waking up with headaches can be a disconcerting way to start your day. Having a headache when waking up is not uncommon, and it can have various underlying causes. Understanding why you might experience these early-morning head pains is the first step to finding relief and ensuring a more comfortable start to your day. A few potential reasons why you might be waking up with headaches include the following:

Possible reasons you’re waking up with headaches

1. Lack of Sleep

Failing to get enough sleep is one of the most likely reasons you’re waking up with a headache. When you suffer from sleep deprivation, your brain can’t maintain the necessary pathways for healthy thinking. The absence of properly firing neurotransmitters could also induce head pain.

As WebMD explains, your brain specifically needs deep levels of sleep to produce adequate dopamine and serotonin – your brain’s natural painkillers and “happy chemicals.” Bottom line: if your neurons don’t get enough recovery time or spend too much time in lighter sleep, it can cause morning headaches.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why people don’t get enough quality sleep, many of which are on this list. Stress, anxiety, and a hectic lifestyle are just some of the reasons why people might struggle to achieve resultful sleep. Additionally, environmental factors like noise, light, and uncomfortable sleeping conditions can interfere with the sleep cycle, resulting in disrupted sleep patterns that lead to headaches when waking up. Underlying health issues like restless leg syndrome can also contribute to poor sleep quality, which leads to headaches when waking up.

Ultimately, the main goal is to determine why you’re not getting enough sleep and address it. Practices like stress reduction techniques, listening to relaxing playlists for sleep, using white noise to sleep, maintaining a comfortable sleeping space, and adhering to a consistent sleep schedule can significantly enhance the quality of your sleep, potentially reducing the likelihood of experiencing morning headaches.

As WebMD explains, your brain specifically needs deep levels of sleep to produce adequate dopamine and serotonin – your brain’s natural painkillers and “happy chemicals.”  Bottom line: If your neurons don’t get enough recovery time or spend too much time in lighter sleep, it can cause morning headaches.

2. Teeth Grinding

Do you wake up with a stiff jaw? Many people clench their jaw or grind their teeth while they sleep without even realizing it. Regularly waking up with tension headaches is one sign you’re grinding your teeth, and so is jaw pain and aching temples. Stress is one common reason for teeth grinding, so make sure you’re giving yourself adequate time to wind down at night.

Consulting with a dentist is a good way to confirm whether or not you are grinding your teeth – the practice can cause noticeable damage to the surface of your teeth. If it’s confirmed, your dentist may recommend a nightguard or other measures that prevent you from grinding, saving you headaches and your pearly whites.

3. The Wrong Pillow

Wait, can pillows cause headaches? They sure can. An awkward neck position throughout the night will strain neck muscles, which in turn creates tension at the base of your head. If you sleep on your stomach with your neck turned to the side all night or lay on your back with your chin pointed downward – this habit is likely contributing to why you feel head pain in the morning.

Keep in mind that it’s not just your pillow that can cause you to wake up with a headache. The overall comfort and alignment of your sleeping environment can contribute to your morning well-being. For instance, the wrong mattress can cause discomfort, muscle tension, and poor spinal alignment, all of which might lead to headaches.

Your choice of sheets and blankets also plays a role in temperature regulation and comfort during the night. Bedding that traps heat and causes you to overheat while you sleep can disrupt your rest while causing you to sweat and deplete your body’s fluids, potentially resulting in headaches the next morning.

4. Dehydration

Waking up with a headache could also mean you’re not hydrated. When you wake up with a headache, it may be your body’s way of signaling that it needs more fluids. Dehydration headaches can occur in the front, back, or side of your head. These headaches may or may not be alcohol-related. In other words, it’s not just a hangover that can lead to a dehydration-related headache.

If you sweat a lot during your sleep or don’t drink a lot of water during the day, you’ll feel it the next day. Believe it or not, you lose some hydration at night just by breathing! This gradual loss of hydration during the night can leave you in a mildly dehydrated state by morning. When you wake up, your body may already be somewhat depleted of the fluids it needs for proper functioning, which can result in headaches.

It’s important to note that even in the absence of sweating or noticeable fluid loss, you can still become dehydrated while you sleep. Ensuring you maintain adequate hydration throughout the day and having a glass of water before bed can be an effective preventive measure to reduce the risk of morning dehydration-related headaches.

5. Caffeine Withdrawal

The National Headache Foundation says that caffeine withdrawal is another reason for waking up with a headache. In this case, you’re experiencing a secondary headache. That is to say, the headache is indicative of an underlying problem – your body is detoxing from caffeine.

Caffeine withdrawal can happen at any point throughout the day, but they’re common in the morning because your body didn’t have caffeine while you were asleep. Headaches due to caffeine withdrawal are due to changes in blood flow to the brain. Caffeine constricts blood vessels, and its withdrawal can lead to the dilation of these blood vessels, causing increased blood flow. This change in blood flow patterns can trigger a headache as a result of the response to caffeine detoxification.

Morning headaches due to caffeine withdrawal can be described as pulsating and are often accompanied by irritability and fatigue.

6. Allergens

Right this moment, there are probably millions of dust mites living on your sheets. Yes, it’s gross, but someone had to tell you. While regularly laundering your bedding can go a long way, these little guys feast on dead skin cells and they’re hard to eliminate altogether. If you’re allergic to dust mites, they can inflame your nasal passages and cause major sinus issues. This often causes people to wake up with a sinus headache.

7. Medication Overuse

The Mayo Clinic advises that overusing certain medications can cause rebound headaches in the morning. This is particularly true of people who are on pain medications for migraines, cluster headaches, or other chronic headache issues. While the medication keeps the original headache at bay, the symptoms can come back later with a vengeance. According to the Clinic, waking up with a headache is specifically tied to headache-related painkillers.

If you’re currently on regular pain medication, especially a prescription that is related to migraines, talk to your doctor about your morning headaches. They may be able to change your medication dosage or advise on some other over-the-counter options.

8. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by interrupted breathing during the night. This condition can lead to headaches upon waking. When individuals suffer from sleep apnea, their airways become partially or completely blocked during sleep, causing them to temporarily stop breathing. These interruptions can occur numerous times throughout the night, leading to poor-quality sleep and various health issues, including morning headaches.

The connection between sleep apnea and waking up with headaches is multifaceted. The interruptions in breathing can result in oxygen deprivation, causing the brain to respond with headaches. Additionally, sleep apnea is often associated with elevated blood pressure, which can contribute to headaches.

The frequent awakenings and interruptions in sleep associated with sleep apnea can also lead to fragmented or poor-quality sleep, triggering headaches and leaving individuals feeling unrested and in pain upon waking.

If you suspect that sleep apnea is causing your morning headaches, it’s crucial to seek professional medical evaluation and treatment. Diagnosing and effectively managing sleep apnea can help alleviate headaches when waking up and improve your overall health and quality of life.

9. Oversleeping

Oversleeping can also cause headaches when waking up. Sleeping in too late can disrupt the circadian rhythm, which regulates various physiological processes, including sleep and wake cycles. When individuals oversleep, they often wake up during a deeper stage of sleep, causing their body’s internal clock to become misaligned. This can result in a state of internal confusion, a condition known as sleep inertia.

As a consequence, individuals may wake up feeling disoriented and groggy, which can lead to a headache. Excessive daytime sleepiness is a common consequence of oversleeping, and the brain may take some time to adjust to the extended sleep duration. This adjustment period can manifest as fogginess and confusion with a tension-type headache, often associated with muscle tension and stress.

Additionally, oversleeping can lead to dehydration, which can contribute to headaches upon waking.

How Can You Prevent Waking Up With Headaches?

The best treatment is prevention. If you want to know how to treat morning headaches, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to prevent them altogether. Preventing the unpleasant experience of waking up with headaches requires a proactive approach that encompasses various aspects of your daily life and habits. From establishing a consistent sleep schedule to investing in comfortable bedding, implementing these strategies can help you start your day headache-free.

How to avoid waking up with headaches

1. Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is a fundamental step in reducing the occurrence of morning headaches. Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. When this rhythm is disrupted, it can lead to disturbances in the quality of our sleep and, consequently, morning discomfort.

Establish a regular bedtime routine that includes soothing activities. A warm bath in Epsom salt, a meditation app, taking melatonin, and turning down electronics 90 minutes before you retire for the day could all help you get a restful sleep. Try avoiding alcohol as a nighttime depressant. While it might help you fall asleep – it also makes restorative sleep less likely.

2. Reduce Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption

Caffeine and sleep have a complicated relationship. While you may not want or need to eliminate caffeine entirely from your life, maintaining consistent levels can be the key to getting rid of painful morning headaches. If you go cold turkey from your usual six cups a day, you may trigger several painful headaches. Incorporating an over-the-counter medication with caffeine as an ingredient (such as Excedrin) may help you detox if you decide to cut back.

Moderating alcohol consumption, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, can significantly reduce the likelihood of alcohol-related headaches upon waking. While alcohol may initially induce drowsiness and help you fall asleep, it can disrupt the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. This disruption can lead to a lower quality of sleep and, in turn, increase the risk of morning headaches. By monitoring and controlling your alcohol and caffeine intake, you can enjoy a more peaceful and headache-free start to your day.

3. Exercise

Regular exercise can enhance sleep quality while reducing the occurrence of morning headaches. Physical activity promotes quality sleep and a smoother and more efficient transition to slumber. As you engage in physical activity, your body temperature rises, and the subsequent cooling effect post-exercise signals to your body that it’s time for rest. This mechanism helps you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper, more restorative sleep, which can minimize disruptions in your sleep cycle that contribute to headaches in the morning.

Exercising before bed also acts as a powerful stress reliever. Stress and tension are common triggers for headaches, including morning headaches. By incorporating regular physical activity into your daily routine, you can effectively alleviate stress, relax your body and mind, and reduce the frequency of tension headaches. The release of endorphins during exercise further contributes to mood enhancement and an overall sense of well-being. This boost in mood helps reduce anxiety and fosters a more positive mental state, which can improve sleep quality.

However, it’s essential to be mindful of the timing of your exercise routine. Engaging in vigorous workouts too close to bedtime may lead to increased alertness, potentially interfering with your ability to fall asleep. Therefore, consider completing exercise sessions at least a few hours before bedtime.

4. Create a Hypoallergenic Environment

Dust particles in your bedroom can have a significant impact on your sleep quality and the likelihood of waking up with a headache. Dust can trigger nighttime allergies and lead to congestion, sneezing, and discomfort during the night, potentially disrupting your sleep.

The irritation caused by inhaling dust can also result in morning headaches. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate dust from your home, taking steps to reduce dust levels in your bedroom can greatly improve your sleep quality and minimize the chances of waking up with a headache.

Just because you can’t get rid of all dust mites doesn’t mean you can’t mitigate their hold on your bedroom. Buying breathable sheets and washing them once a week in hot water will keep some of the mites at bay. You should also keep your bedroom’s humidity at about 50% and trade your carpet in for hardwood floors if possible.

5. Stay Hydrated

Proper hydration plays a crucial role in ensuring a headache-free morning. Dehydration can lead to headaches and, in some cases, increase the intensity of morning discomfort. Maintaining adequate hydration levels is essential for overall health and can significantly contribute to a more peaceful start to your day.

Most people need about four to six cups of water per day to maintain adequate hydration levels. While you don’t want to chug a huge canister of water right before bed (unless midnight trips to the bathroom are your idea of a party), drinking a glass a few hours before bed is a good idea.

6. Invest in Comfortable Bedding

You don’t want a pillow that is too thin or too thick. Like Goldilocks, you need a pillow that’s “just right” to eliminate getting a headache from pillow pressure and a stiff neck. Get a pillow that keeps your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. You may also benefit from training yourself to sleep on your side, which allows for an ideal neck alignment. You can also find a pillow designed for specific sleep positions to alleviate potential alignment issues.

Your sheets and blankets are also important for overall comfort. Opt for soft, breathable materials that suit your personal preferences. High-quality sheets with a thread count that appeals to your comfort can enhance your sleep experience. A comfortable blanket that provides the right level of warmth without causing overheating is equally important.

Yet, your pillow and sheets don’t really matter if your mattress is uncomfortable. Your mattress is the most crucial component of comfortable bedding. A good mattress should provide adequate support, align your spine, and offer comfort to ensure restful sleep.

There are various types of mattresses available, such as memory foam mattresses, innerspring, hybrid, and latex, each with its unique benefits. Finding the right mattress for your specific needs can significantly impact sleep quality while reducing morning headaches.

Key Takeaways: Avoid Waking Up With Headaches

Whatever your headache triggers, making your bed as comfortable as possible can only help. When your neck and shoulders are supported, your body benefits. Have you thought about trying an adjustable copper-infused pillow? It’s a great place to start.

A weighted blanket can also reduce stress and tension and help quiet even the most aggressive insomnia. Finally, an adjustable base bed helps you find the best position for your comfort and keep sleep deprivation away! What are you waiting for? Layla has all of the bedroom essentials and accessories to get your sleep (and your waking up) on the right track.