Headaches are one of the most common complaints, and morning headaches are often experienced by those who have insomnia. Poor sleep can cause tension-type headaches, fatigue, irritability, daytime sleepiness, and concentration and memory disturbances.

Unsurprisingly, headaches and sleep are related since the same brain areas control them. But why do we wake up with a headache? Let’s explore some of the reasons.

Causes of Morning Headache:

  1. Migraines, which predominantly affect women in a 3-to-1 ratio, usually occurs between four and nine o’clock in the morning. This might cause a lack of sleep, leading to a headache when they wake up. Migraine headaches can last from 4 to 72 hours, present with intense attacks with throbbing pain, and be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, phonophobia, and photophobia.
  2. Cluster Headaches, which usually occur at night, are one of the most disabling headaches. These headaches are intense, unilateral, lasting from 15 to 180 minutes. Despite not always being the case, they often occur at night during the REM phase, interrupting sleep even for a few hours.
  3. Hypnic Headache is a nocturnal headache that occurs exclusively during sleep and presents with moderate pain that may persist up to 4 hours after awakening. This type of headache, characterized by bilateral pain, is typical of old age.
  4. Restless Legs Syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by the compelling need to move the lower limbs. People with this disorder often experience motor restlessness of the lower limbs and find relief by dragging them. This syndrome, often associated with headaches and insomnia, tends to worsen in the evening or at night due to the excessive reduction in dopamine levels.
  5. Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which involves an interruption of at least 10 seconds of breathing at night and affects 4 out of 100 people. People affected by it may be prone to insomnia and, thus, headaches upon waking. Sleep apnea is often accompanied by snoring, and it can cause up to 400 micro-awakenings per night.
  6. Poor Lifestyles: going to bed at different times, especially on weekends, waking up late, smoking, being sedentary, eating fatty foods, drinking alcohol, or consuming caffeinated beverages can make falling asleep difficult and cause waking up with a headache the next day. For example, meat, which contains an abundant amount of tyrosine, may act as a stimulant and not be the best choice for a good night’s sleep.
  7. Bruxism and Jet Lag disturbances in the circadian cycle can cause awakenings with headaches, typical of those who work shifts or after a long journey. Grinding or clenching teeth during sleep (bruxism) can cause muscle-tensive headaches, resulting in nonrestorative sleep.
  8. Incorrect Postures, as posture also plays a role in managing good sleep and, consequently, awakening. Sleeping on the stomach or in a prone position may not be the best choice since it can result in poor sleep and headaches upon awakening. Headaches from poor posture are usually tension headaches associated with musculoskeletal pain in the neck region.

In conclusion, headaches can have various causes, and poor sleep is often one of them. If you experience frequent or severe headaches, it is best to consult a healthcare professional to identify the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.