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6 Reasons You Keep Waking Up with a Headache

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When most people wake up, they like to stretch, read or watch the news, and drink a cup of coffee. If you’re waking up with a headache, this likely isn’t your morning routine. Instead, you might feel like staying in bed and avoiding the day. Nearly 1 in 13 people experience morning headaches and those who suffer from sleep disorders are 2 to 8 times more likely to experience morning headaches.

Waking up with a headache isn’t just unpleasant, but it’s a terrible way to jump start your day. If it happens frequently, you might not be living your best life possible. The best way to avoid morning headaches is to determine the cause. Once you determine the cause, you can seek treatment and avoid them for the long haul. Discover some of the causes of morning headaches and what treatment options are available to you.

1. Insomnia

One of the top causes of morning headaches is insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep condition that affects your sleep patterns that can lead to sleep deprivation. Usually, people who suffer from insomnia will either struggle to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Sleep will usually feel restless.

After a night of tossing and turning, insomnia can cause you to wake up with a headache or migraine. The initial cause of the headache or migraine is sleep deprivation. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces too many proteins that cause chronic pain. With the increase of proteins, it can spark headaches.

The best way to avoid morning headaches when you suffer from insomnia is by seeking treatment for insomnia. Treatment might include lifestyle changes, medication, and/or therapy. Talk to your doctor if insomnia is affecting your sleep. 

2. Anxiety and Depression

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, there was a study that reported anxiety and depression as one of the leading factors of chronic morning headaches. Depression and anxiety can also lead to insomnia which also increases the chances of morning headaches. Medication and therapy can help people manage their depression and anxiety symptoms to sleep better and therefore reduce the risk of morning headaches.

3. Medication or Alcohol Use

Certain medications can interfere with your sleep patterns just like alcohol. Disrupted sleep means you don’t sleep as well as you should and can result in sleep deprivation and morning headaches. If you drink too heavily, it can also cause a hangover which usually results in a headache or migraine. Pay attention to the possible side effects of the medications you take and how they might affect your sleep. It’s also important to not over-consume alcohol to avoid morning headaches.

4. Strained Muscles

If you’re sleeping in an awkward position that causes your neck muscles to become strained, it can result in a morning headache. The muscles that go through your neck also go through your head. When these muscles become strained, it can cause your head to hurt.

Check your pillow position on your bed to see if your spine and neck are aligned similarly to their alignment when you’re standing. Soft pillows might not provide your head and neck with enough support and pillows that are too thick can cause an uncomfortable angle for your entire body. Try using different pillows until you find one that helps you sustain the correct sleep posture. Once you find the right pillow, you won’t experience morning headaches anymore.

5. Bruxism and TMJ

If you’re grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep at night, this is putting significant strain on your jaw joints and the connecting muscles and tissues. Since the tissue in this area span across your entire face, it can cause headaches and migraines when you wake up in the morning. In severe cases of bruxism, people can develop temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a condition that causes a dysfunctional jaw joint. Both bruxism and TMJ can cause people to wake up with headaches in the morning. If you have a sore jaw, face pain, clogged ears, or tinnitus, it’s a good idea to seek an evaluation from a TMJ dentist. Some people only need to wear a night guard at night to stop clenching and grinding, while others might require TMJ treatment.

On the other hand, patients tend to clench or grind their teeth following an apneic event to stabilize their airway which can result in TMJ, headaches, and muscle pain. We recommend oral appliance therapy after the patients take a home sleep test to treat the apneic events that cause the bruxism in the first place. A lot of our patients don’t even know they have obstructive sleep apnea because they don’t have the common symptoms like snoring, or they have a healthy body weight. If you’re suffering from bruxism or TMJ, we highly recommend visiting our practice for an evaluation and for a home sleep test. You might require oral appliance therapy to treat the route cause of your TMJ or bruxism.

6. Sleep Apnea and Snoring

The last reason you might experience morning headaches and migraines is if you have sleep apnea or snore at night. With sleep apnea, your sleep becomes disrupted because you stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. Snoring also disrupts your sleep and is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. If you wake up with headaches, snore every night, or someone has told you that you cough, choke, or gasp in your sleep, it’s important to have a sleep study to determine if sleep apnea is the cause. Treatment for sleep apnea and snoring involves wearing an oral appliance every night or using a CPAP. There are also lifestyle changes you can make to improve your condition and reduce morning headaches.

If you wake up with morning headaches frequently and experience any symptoms of sleep apnea, we strongly encourage you to schedule a free, online airway evaluation and consultation with Dr. Ronald Cox, DDS, Diplomate, American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine or by calling 704-964-6404.

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