6 Reasons You May Be Suffering From Morning Headaches
Some people seem to be prone to headaches, while others rarely seem to be affected by them. And, waking up with a headache can surely get your day off to a bad start. If you are one of the unfortunate ones, undoubtedly you have tried to determine the cause. While morning headaches are common, they can happen for a variety of reasons, Amit Sachdev, M.D., an assistant professor and director of the Division of Neuromuscular Medicine at Michigan State University, tells SELF. Following are the most likely reasons that many suffer from those annoying occurrences, as excerpted from SELF.com:
1. You might actually suffer from migraines.
Migraines are often genetic, meaning there’s not much you can do to control whether or not you get them, but you can manage them, Dr. Sachdev says. The key is to identify your triggers—stress, poor sleep, and diet are some of the biggies, he says—and avoid them as much as you can. If you do develop a migraine, resting, using ice, relaxing, and meditating can help, Sachdev says.
2. Or you might have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition that causes people to repeatedly stop breathing during their sleep, can cause you to wake up with a headache. The headache is due to lack of oxygen and increased pressure that can develop in your head due to the condition, Vernon Williams, M.D., sports neurologist and director of the Kerlan-Jobe Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, tells SELF.
3. Maybe you’re going through caffeine withdrawal.
This normally happens in people who have multiple cups of coffee throughout the day, but it can happen to anyone, Dr. Williams says. Caffeine may impact blood flow to the brain, Dr. Sachdev says, and if you don’t have as much as usual it can cause neurological side effects that are similar to withdrawal from other drugs like alcohol. If you’re trying to go caffeine-free but could do without the headache, wean yourself off slowly.
4. You could be grinding your teeth at night.
Grinding your teeth can cause tension in your temporomandibular joints (TMJ), which connects your lower jaw to your skull in front of your ear, and it can also cause changes in the positioning of your jaw, Dr. Sachdev says. All this leads to tension, which can spark a headache. If you suspect that your morning headaches are due to teeth grinding (or your dentist has flagged you as a teeth grinder), talk to your doctor about next steps, which can include wearing a protective bite guard at night.
5. You had an alcoholic beverage (or several) before bed.
While you’re more likely to have a headache the morning after a rager vs. a glass of wine with dinner, it’s possible to get an A.M. headache either way. There are compounds in alcohol that can interact negatively with neurotransmitters in your brain, causing headaches or even triggering migraines in vulnerable people, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., tells SELF. Alcohol is also a diuretic and many people wake up dehydrated after drinking, which can exacerbate a hangover headache or cause one to form, she says.
6. In rare cases, it could be something more serious.
When people describe morning headaches, Dr. Williams says it gets his attention because there’s a chance it could be due to something potentially serious, like increased pressure from a brain tumor or mass. People with brain tumors often wake up early with a headache because cerebrospinal fluid pressure is the highest in the early morning, Dr. Kreigler says. “If the tumor is causing swelling, this will stretch the coverings of the brain and cause headaches,” she explains.
This is obviously rare and not the most likely cause of morning head pain, so don’t freak out and assume the worst. If you did have a brain tumor, Dr. Williams says you’d probably also experience symptoms like changes in vision, loss of vision, changes in balance, feelings of drowsiness, and changes in your mental status. It’s much more likely that your morning headaches are caused by something much less serious.
The bottom line: If you occasionally wake up to a headache, it’s probably no big deal. But if it happens regularly, talk to your doctor or dentist so you can find out what’s causing them—and fix it.