Why You’re Waking Up With a Headache, and How to Stop It?

Waking Up With a Headache

Instead of waking up fresh and bright, you rise with a skull that’s threatening to explode. Or it could be a dull, throbbing pain that only means bad news. Morning headaches afflict millions of people every day. While this fact isn’t going to cure you, it might make you feel less alone.

This condition can also happen at any time, not just in the morning. There are various reasons as to why you’re waking up with a headache. To treat it, you should deal with the root cause.

Sleep and headaches can be closely linked with each other. Most people report having migraines between the wee hours of dawn to early morning. Those suffering from sleep issues get headaches 2 to 8 more times more than those who aren’t.

In this article, we’ll look into some possible causes of head pain. And seek ways to manage or get rid of them. Headache can ruin your whole day. It can even be debilitating. It’s good to know it’s not entirely out of your control.

Why Are You Waking Up With A Headache?

Morning Headache

This kind of headache awakens individuals usually after 4 a.m. until 9 a.m. Tension-type headaches are the most common culprit for disrupting your sleep at dawn. But cluster and migraine headaches can also greet you when you get up.

Tension-Type Headache

This type of headache can be classified into episodic or chronic. But both share the same characteristics. You’ll know them by the dull, aching, and non-pulsating pain on both sides of the head. They only differ in how often and intense they occur.

Cluster Headache

This is the kind of pain you experience in or around one eye. It frequently happens in a series or cluster, hence, the name. This is followed by a time of remission, which can last from months to years. You can take medication for the attacks to lessen their impact and shorten their duration.

Migraine Headache

Migraine is characterized by throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the head. But it can also affect both sides. It’s often accompanied by sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting. 

Check out the National Headache Foundation website for more information on headache types.



Drinking too much alcohol the previous night can lead to a hangover the next morning. Headache is one of the most common manifestations of a hangover. There are two possible reasons for this. One, you can become dehydrated as alcohol causes your body to pee often. Second, it can also make blood vessels expand. And these events can contribute to your head hurting.


Waking up with a headache behind eyes means you have a migraine attack. Stress is a probable cause of migraines. It tends to weaken the immune system and, worse, impair cognitive and motor functions. And this can coincide with bouts of insomnia. 

Hormonal Changes

Morning headaches, including menstrual migraines, can be caused by fluctuating hormones in women. Anyone going through the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can experience this. During the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels go down while estrogen levels rise during pregnancy. 

Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy can also affect hormone levels.


There are two kinds of insomnia that plague many individuals. Sleep-onset insomnia means you’re having trouble falling asleep during bedtime. Meanwhile, sleep-maintenance insomnia is the inability to stay asleep. Usually, this difficulty lasts for days. This significantly increases a person’s sleep debt. After being deprived of more than 6 hours of shuteye a night, those who are prone to migraines may suffer from attacks upon waking up.

Read: 5 Sleep Disorders You Should Know Aside from Insomnia


One study shows that depression and anxiety are the top factors for chronic morning headaches. One symptom of these mental illnesses is insomnia, which, as you read above, negatively impacts sleep. And thus, it can lead to headaches when you wake up.

There’s no shame in having depression or anxiety. If you’re experiencing signs of any of these conditions, reach out for help. Talk therapy and oral medication can help individuals manage their anxiety or depression. In turn, they can treat or prevent morning headaches altogether.

Waking Up With a Headache

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder that is associated with headaches. Also known as snoring, sleep apnea sufferers report about morning headaches. However, researchers haven’t established a solid connection between sleep apnea and migraines. One area worth exploring is how OSA can result in insomnia, which in turn leads to morning headaches. This suggests that the treatment of sleep apnea may reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.

Over Medication

Taking a lot of pain medicines can make you prone to headaches. The resulting condition is called medication overuse headache (MOH). And it can happen just when you wake up. It’s somehow ironic. But you may be popping one pill too much to relieve your pain that the pain boomerangs.

In this case, consult a doctor to determine the proper dosage.

Other Health Conditions

If none of those mentioned above is causing your morning headaches, consider other health conditions. Discuss all of the symptoms you’re experiencing with your doctor. In some situations, hypertension and musculoskeletal diseases are triggering frequent headaches.

How Do I Get Rid Of A Headache?

Avoid Tight Headwear

Pulling your hair up into a tight ponytail can cause a headache known as an external compression headache. The same thing may apply if you’re wearing a tight headband, hat, or any other headwear or gear. Removing the object leads to quick relief for some people.

Use A Cold Pack

A cold compress can do wonders if placed on your forehead. You can easily use a cold pack if you have one. As an alternative, you can wrap ice cubes with a towel or try frozen peas. Apply it for at least 15 minutes.

Try A Heating Pad

On the other hand, a heating pad can be helpful during an episode of tension-type headache. Place the pad on your neck or the back of your head. Taking a hot shower may also work.

Get Your Caffeine Kick

A cup of joe can help relieve morning headaches. So brew some coffee or have some tea for breakfast. A little dose of caffeine can ease the symptoms, even boosting the effects of painkillers. However, too much caffeine can backfire as it can trigger insomnia.

Dim the Lights

Turn off the lights, shut the curtains, or wear sunglasses during a migraine attack. Bright lights may worsen the situation. And if you’re experiencing sensitivity to light, it’s better to stay away from computer and phone screens altogether. Or at least use an anti-glare screen.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

Alcohol has positive effects on the body, but it can also make your head hurt if you drink too much of it. It can trigger migraines, cluster, and tension-type headaches. 

Practice Calming Down

Keep calm and carry on, as the British like to say. One method that works is practicing mindfulness through meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation. Any of these may not directly cure a migraine. But it allows you to stay calm while battling a killer headache.

When Should You See A Doctor?

Morning headaches can be a symptom of something worse. If you have an episode that is so severe and accompanied by other symptoms, it’s time to go to the doctor or hospital. Some of the symptoms are high fever (more than 39 to 40 degrees Celsius), fainting, nausea or vomiting not related to a hangover or the flu, and losing the ability to see, speak, or walk.

If you are suffering from headaches alone, discuss your situation with a doctor. Prioritize this if you’re experiencing it more often and intense than usual, it’s affecting your daily activities, or you’re not getting better after taking medicines.


If you’ve been waking up with a headache, you can read about the possible causes in this article. Return and refer to it whenever you need to deal with a pesky headache. Know when to treat the pain with home remedies and over-the-counter drugs and when to apply emergency care.

While we do not recommend self-diagnosis alone, we are all for individuals being aware of morning headache, its types, and its causes. These pieces of information can help you know yourself more. At the same time, they can lead you to more effective ways to manage the pain. So, take everything you can get from today’s reading. 

Morning headaches can be a bummer. But you don’t have to suffer from them cluelessly. 

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