Waking up with a headache or migraine

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How This Helps

There are different types of headaches, with some being more severe than others. Migraine is one such type of headache that can disrupt a person’s life and leave them feeling incapable of doing anything. Many people often find themselves waking up with migraines or having a headache while sleeping. Usually, when a headache happens during the day, it is generally due to factors such as stress or not having eaten for a long time. If you find yourself asking why I wake up with a headache, then it is worth exploring the causes. Three kinds of headaches commonly hit in the morning: tension, migraine, and cluster headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common sort of aggravation. Unlike migraines, they cause an ache as opposed to throbbing pain. They frequently hit in the early hours, especially if you get them daily.

Migraine is an intense, throbbing aggravation which leads to symptoms such as nausea, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. Approximately half of the migraine headaches begin between the hours of 4 and 9 a.m. Individuals with chronic migraines get these headaches 15 or more times per month.

Cluster headaches get their name in the way the headaches come in groups or clusters. During one of those clusters, you’re going to get headaches daily at around the same time. For some individuals, cluster headaches arrive in the morning. 

Cluster headaches are excruciating. They can cause a piercing or burning sensation, often on one side of the head. The pain can last from a few minutes to many hours. Each cluster lasts for a couple of weeks or months. After a cluster headache passes, you can go months or years with no cluster attack.

Why do I wake up with a headache?

Waking up with a migraine or having a headache after a nap can happen due to a wide variety of reasons. You may even experience a headache while sleeping if you are under a lot of stress or may find yourself waking up with a headache if you have had an insufficient sleep in the night. Some people even experience such morning headaches regularly. 1 in 13 people is estimated to experience regular early morning headaches.[1]

It is believed that during the early hours of the morning, the body’s internal pain management or reduction is usually lower than usual. Furthermore, the body might be making more adrenaline during these early hours, which results in a migraine attack once you wake up.[2]

A lack of good quality sleep in the night or if you suffer from a sleep disorder may also be the cause of why you woke up with a headache. Sleep disorders are nearly two to eight times more likely to wake up with a headache in the morning compared to those who do not have a sleeping disorder.[3]

In most cases, a migraine is the known cause of such early morning headaches. If you look at the global prevalence of headaches, the percentages of adults with an active headache disorder are 46 percent with general headaches, 42 percent with tension-type headaches, 11 percent with migraine headaches, and three percent with chronic daily headaches.[4] One in ten people is known to have frequent migraine attacks, with nearly 30 million Americans getting regular migraines.[5]

If you wake up and experience a headache regularly, there could be many potential reasons for having a migraine attack in the morning. It is estimated that half of such headaches while sleeping occurs between 4 a.m. to 9 a.m.[6] Here is a closer look at what are the causes behind these early morning headaches.  

Causes of waking up with headaches

Reasons behind why do I wake up with a headache?

1. Sleeping Patterns

The amount of sleep and quality of sleep you are getting every night is one of the biggest causes behind how likely you are to waking up with migraines. A study found that 50 percent of all people who have chronic migraines also have been diagnosed with insomnia.[7] The research team also found that 38 percent of those who get frequent migraine attacks are known to sleep for less than six hours each night. More than half of the study participants also reported experiencing persistent sleep disturbances. 

Insomnia is a common cause of sleep deprivation and is known to be a prevalent cause of morning migraines.[8] There are many reasons why insomnia prevents you from getting sufficient sleep in the night, including:

Causing restless sleep

• Waking you up from sleep

• Keeping you up while you try to fall asleep

There are various treatments available for insomnia, and you should bring it up with your doctor so that the condition can be treated. 

It has been found that reducing insomnia results in getting a good night’s sleep, thus reliving these morning headaches.[9]

2. Depression or other Mental Health Conditions: Frequently having a headache while sleeping or waking up with a headache is closely linked to anxiety and depression.[10] A study found that one of the major factors responsible for chronic morning migraines was depression and anxiety.[11] Additionally, there is a connection between mental health conditions and sleep disorders or disturbances, further increasing the risk of waking up with migraines or having a headache while sleeping.

This can be thought of like a vicious cycle because waking up with a headache every morning is bound to have a significant effect on your mental health. Suffering from chronic pain every morning can be challenging, which further increases your depression and anxiety.[12] 

If you think you possibly have a mental health condition, you must talk to your doctor. There are several treatment options for depression and other mental health conditions, and managing these will significantly reduce the occurrence of your morning headaches.

3. Alcohol use or medications: Waking up with a headache could also be due to excessive alcohol use or certain medicines. Many medications cause disruption in your sleeping patterns and interrupt your sleep cycle, leading to an early morning headache. 

At the same time, excess drinking can also disrupt sleep, causing you to wonder why you woke up with a headache or a hangover.[13]

If you feel that some of your medications might be causing these early morning headaches, you must talk about it with your doctor. Ending excess drinking will also prevent hangovers and early morning headaches.

4 Less natural painkillers. Between 8 and 4 a.m., your body makes fewer endorphins and other natural pain-reducing compounds. Additionally, by morning, any pain pills you took before bed have worn off.

5 You snore. Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea. Throughout sleep, in those who have sleep apnea, the muscles in your throat relax and obstruct your airway. Then you can not get enough oxygen in your lungs. This obstruction of air passage can raise the carbon dioxide levels in your blood and increase your head’s pressure. These two events can set off headaches. Snoring by itself may also trigger morning headaches.

6. Other reasons. There may  be other reasons yet why you are experiencing headaches or migraines when you wake up:

You do not sleep enough. People with sleep disorders are up to eight times more likely to experience headaches. Those with sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea and chronic sleeplessness) experienced more headaches than the rest of the populace. The stress of being tired can cause headaches.

You have taken too many pain relievers. Long-term use of pain medication to treat your headaches can sometimes result in more headaches. These repeat headaches often strike in the morning hours.

You grind your teeth. You may not understand that you clench your teeth as you sleep. Grinding creates tension from the muscles of your jaw and face. This strain can activate a headache

Your blood glucose dips at night. Your blood sugar level may fall several hours after your last meal. Headache is one indication of low blood glucose, together with nausea

You have the wrong pillow. A pillow not appropriately supporting your head at night can put excessive strain on your shoulders and neck. Muscle tension in these areas may cause a headache.

How to stop waking up with a headache?

How Do I Quit Waking Up With a Headache?

– One of the main reasons for poor sleep is stress. Our minds are super active with many thoughts in the day, making it impossible to relax. The obvious solution is to relieve stress. Try exercise, yoga, swimming, or any other relaxing activity.

Plan to sleep with a serene bedtime routine every night around the same time, and stick to it. Clear your mind of the thoughts you’ve been holding onto all day, say some prayers, and be grateful. 

– If you grind your teeth during sleeping, consult your doctor if you should wear a mouth guard to keep you from clenching. Additionally, try meditation or other relaxation methods

Use pain relievers only when you want them. Overuse of these medicines may result in rebound morning headaches.

– To sleep more, make a routine. Go to bed at precisely the same time every night and wake up at precisely the same time each morning. Prevent alcohol and caffeine around bedtime as they can keep you awake.

An over-the-counter pain reliever could be sufficient to calm the occasional morning headache. If morning pain becomes a recurrent event, your physician or a headache expert can pinpoint the problem and help you to find a solution.

Migraine With Aura Symptoms & Natural Treatments


If you are regularly waking up with a headache and you believe these could be migraine attacks, then it is a good idea to keep track of your symptoms, how often they happen, what you have eaten the night before, and what medications you are taking. Keeping track of such details will help when you go to the doctor. Early morning headaches are treated based on the underlying cause. For example, getting a better sleep quality by changing your pillow or doing away with electronics before bedtime can help cut down on the early morning headaches. If you find that these headaches are increasing in frequency and severity, you should talk to your doctor and determine the cause. With appropriate treatment, these early morning headaches will get better.