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Morning Headache: Why Does It Happen When You Wake Up?

Many people complain of a severe morning headache, the triggering factor of which could be attributable to an unperceived night headache. To solve this problem, it is essential to identify the reasons and causes that cause it. The latter can be multiple, variable and different depending on the person. Although it is very unusual for pain in the head to be a symptom of a severe illness, if these discomforts are intense, frequent or accompanied by other symptoms, we should see a specialist as soon as possible.  

What Are The Types Of Headaches?

In general, headache is pain that can affect any part of the head, including the scalp, face, upper neck, or the inside of the skull. Even if serious diseases do not cause headaches, the frequency of these painful episodes can interfere with the performance of daily activities, which is why it is advisable to ask your doctor to investigate the problem by prescribing a specialist visit.

First Of All, We Distinguish Between

  1. Primary Headaches: this expression refers to headaches not originating from another disorder. The most common causes of this particular type are: muscle tension and migraine, to which can be added the so-called cluster headache (which causes, on only one side of the head, acute pain in the temple or around the eye, lasting relatively short)
  2. Secondary Headaches: Usually caused by another disorder such as a problem with the brain, throat, sinuses, ears, teeth, jaws, neck, nose, or eyes. When the disorder originates concerns, however, the whole body will be referred to as a systemic disorder.

What Are The Leading Causes Of Morning Headaches?

Sleep Apnea (Or Sleep Apnea) 

These are brief interruptions in breathing during sleep in which the brain does not receive oxygen for a few seconds. People suffering from this problem snore profoundly and, sometimes, not having treatment and fluid sleep, get up exhausted and with a headache. Another problem common to people with sleep apnea is loss of concentration.

Menstrual Cycle 

Many women who suffer a migraine attack consider it associated with the menstrual cycle as it occurs a few days before or in the very first days of the latter: in this case, it is due to the physiological reduction in the level of estrogen that occurs in that period. 

Problems Falling Asleep 

Stress, daily worries, depression or anxiety can hinder sleep or worsen sleep quality and lead to waking up several times a night. In this circumstance, we get up nervous, irritable and exhausted, which can lead to morning migraines.

Incorrect Postures 

Spending 8 hours or more sleeping in an unnatural, uncomfortable or inadequate position is also a risk factor and can cause morning contractures and headaches. Even teeth grinding or bruxism can affect our head’s health and cause discomfort and pain upon waking.


Most people consume a lot of coffee which, creating a sort of addiction in the body, can lead to headaches if the usual daily dose is received. For this reason, people particularly sensitive to migraines should avoid taking it as much as possible.

Insufficient Hydration

During the night, we usually do not consume liquids or food. Although the body is indeed in a phase of rest, the simple fact of breathing and beating the heart causes the body to consume energy and suffer from slight dehydration. This lack of fluids in the body can cause insufficient oxygen to reach the blood, causing the dreaded headache. An essential element that can affect a person’s hydration level is alcohol, which also affects the duration and quality of sleep, preventing us from reaching REM sleep.

Chemical Products And Allergens 

The pollution of the environmental context in which we live and move and, more generally, dust, mites and some allergens that are found in our homes can play a leading role in this type of disorder, to the extent that allergies can interfere with our nervous system we will be more susceptible and irritable to the consequences that these factors cause. Furthermore, we also consider that some chemicals usually used, such as room fragrances, deodorants, or detergents, can, in some cases, contribute to causing migraines.

Vision Problems 

Even poorly corrected vision disorders, or those that we are not yet diagnosed with, can often cause headaches in migraine sufferers throughout the day and when we wake up.

Drug Abuse

People who often suffer from migraines may take excessive doses of medicines to combat it without knowing that this solution can easily cause adverse effects and accentuate headaches.

Pathological Conditions (Rarer)

In more severe circumstances, the morning migraine occurs exclusively as a symptom of another disorder. The most significant, albeit rare, example is a brain tumor which includes a rise in intracranial pressure, causing pain that gradually and steadily increases. In this case, it is essential to resort to a timely and thorough diagnosis.

How Do You Prevent Migraines Upon Waking?

There are some precautions that it would be good to follow to combat this disorder:

  1. Eat appropriately by following a well-balanced diet regarding foods with good nutritional value.
  2. Avoid stimulating or irritating drinks and foods such as, for example, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, etc.
  3. Regularly engage in physical activity and relaxation exercises such as yoga or pilates.
  4. Sleep on a comfortable mattress.
  5. Avoid poor posture while sleeping (poor posture and the need to move the lower limbs frequently is known as “tired legs syndrome” or “restless”).
  6. Drink copious amounts of water before bed to avoid dehydration.
  7. Correct refractive defects and other vision problems.
  8. Increase muscle relaxation by taking magnesium, which has many other benefits for the body.

In addition to everything already mentioned, it is essential to periodically carry out medical check-ups at both sight and general levels. Unfortunately, many pathologies do not present significant symptoms until the disease reaches an advanced stage. One of the ways to identify them is through the use of specific diagnostic tools. Hence, the importance of undergoing medical advice helps treat these pathologies in time and effectively.

What Is The Treatment Or Strategies To Improve It?

Waking up with a headache can lead to a marked worsening of a person’s life in the long run. For this reason, it is vital to make minor adjustments to your lifestyle. A possible strategy to deal with the problem is to create and implement a functional “routine” to promote an improvement in the quality of sleep, going to sleep and waking up at about the same time every day. 

Another aspect that should not be underestimated is to avoid using electronic devices (TV, computer, smartphone, tablet) before going to bed since their brightness can constitute excessive sensory stimulation, resulting in sleep disturbance. Again with this in mind, it is advisable to sleep in a welcoming environment, without noise and as dark as possible, but with a temperature that is not excessively high and away from meals, avoiding sugars and sweets. If you have insomnia, it is, instead, necessary to contact a specialist doctor who can develop an ad hoc treatment to solve the problem.


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