5 Reasons Why You Wake Up with a Headache
It’s hard to think of an ordinary thing that feels more unfair than waking up after a night’s sleep with a headache. When you expect to be rested and refreshed, and have a day of tasks ahead of you, starting out with a headache is exactly what you don’t need. As it turns out, your body’s natural painkillers are at their lowest levels between about 4 and 8 a.m., which is part of the reason you might wake up with your head throbbing. However, if you find that morning headaches are a regular occurrence, there are some common triggers that might be at the root of your problem.
Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea sufferers actually stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night, causing their blood oxygen level to dip. Frequently, they don’t even know this is happening—although their partners may have a clue, as the condition is often accompanied by snoring. The pattern of broken sleep that results, as the person rouses just enough to start breathing again over and over, can lead to sleep deprivation, fatigue, and morning headaches.
Bruxism: People who grind their teeth in the night may wake up with a dull throbbing in their temples due to the pressure on their jaw throughout the night. Wearing a protective bite guard at night can help stop the grinding and alleviate the resulting headaches.
Alcohol/medication: We all know that drinking heavily before bed is likely to lead to a wicked headache in the morning. However, you might not be aware that even a single glass of the wrong kind of alcohol can trigger a headache (red wine is a notorious culprit). Medications taken at night may also spark a headache, depending on your sensitivities. If you have an unusual morning headache, take a minute to think back to what you consumed the evening before, as that might be a clue as to what brought it on.
Allergies: Spending the night exposed to allergens can produce a headache, either from the histamine reaction or the pressure in your sinuses. If you know you have seasonal allergies, make sure to keep any windows shut and consider adding an air filter to your bedroom. If you’re sensitive to dust mites, use allergy proof bedding, and consider replacing old mattresses and pillows (which harbor greater quantities of dust mites and their allergens over time).
Poor sleep position: Tension headaches may come from what we’d generally call “sleeping wrong.” Maybe you have a pillow that is too hard or too soft, putting your neck in a strained position. Maybe your mattress has developed a sag that throws your spine out of whack. The muscular tension that results can produce dull headaches.
Of course, these aren’t the only reasons you might wake up with a headache. If waking up with a headache is new or if your headaches have changed in frequency or severity, you should check with your doctor to rule out an underlying medical condition.
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