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Why do I keep waking up with a headache?

man waking up with a headacheHave you ever woken up with a splitting headache? If so, then you’re not alone – in fact, early morning headaches are common, with around 1 in 13 people experiencing them on a regular basis. But what causes this, and what can be done to prevent them?

What is a headache?

A headache can be categorised as a symptom of pain in the head or neck area. There are however a range of different types of headache which you should be aware of, as some are significantly more debilitating than others:

  • Migraine headache
  • Cluster headache
  • Hypnic headache
  • Tension headache
  • Paroxysmal hemicrania

What are the causes of a morning headache?

When hit with a headache from the moment you open your eyes, it can be considerably more debilitating than a typical headache that comes throughout the day – but why does it happen?

There are a number of reasons for why you may wake up with a headache in the morning, and more often than not you will be able to pinpoint a potential cause of your headache and can make steps towards relieving the tension.

Here are some of the most common reasons for why you may get a headache in the morning:

  • Hangovers – excess alcohol the night before will often lead to a headache in the morning, more commonly known as a hangover. When our blood alcohol content comes back down to normal levels, this can leave behind a wake of unpleasant hangover symptoms. As blood vessels expand, headaches are unfortunately a common one.
  • MigrainesMigraines can be incredibly debilitating, but they are also pretty common, with over 10% of people worldwide suffering from migraines every year. Symptoms of migraine include blurred vision, sensitivity and sickness – and what’s more, migraines most commonly occur in the mornings.
  • Sleep disorders – Disrupted or poor-quality sleep is a huge contributing factor to waking with a headache, and so if you suffer from a known sleep disorder and find your waking up with headaches, it's likely that the two are connected. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, insomnia or bruxism have been shown to be 2 to 8 times more likely to cause morning headaches.

What can be done to prevent waking up with a headache?

If you’re suffering from regular morning headaches, there are some things you can do to help prevent them occurring. Below are just a few of the things you can do to reduce the likelihood of waking up with a headache:

  • Increase water intake – dehydration is a huge cause of headaches, so ensuring you drink plenty of water throughout the day and before bedtime can help to combat this.
  • Get more sleep – perhaps you’re waking up lots of times throughout the night or going to bed too late. Increased time asleep is likely to have a positive impact on the number of headaches you suffer with in the morning, so consider switching up your routine.
  • Reduce your screen time – if you work at a computer or use a smart phone regularly then this could be impacting the quality of your sleep and increasing the chance of a headache. Most screens have what is known as a ‘blue light’ which can cause headaches and stimulate the brain impeding how well you sleep.

How can I treat a headache?

In most cases, a headache can be treated with paracetamol.

There are also topical treatments, such as Tiger Balm White, which can be massaged into your forehead to relieve tention headaches.

If you do find yourself regularly waking up with a headache, we advise you to speak to your doctor or a pharmacist for assistance. A consultation with your doctor may be able to pinpoint the cause of your headaches, while a pharmacist can help you choose the right headache relief for you. If you experience a headache more severe than before, or are experiencing other symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or visual disturbances, you should contact your doctor.

For more information on when you should speak to your doctor about a headache, click here

Authored & Reviewed By

Mohamed Imran Lakhi

MPharm - Lead Pharmacist
Imran Lakhi is the superintendent pharmacist and founder at Prescription Doctor. He has been at the core of our team.

Published on: 13/08/2019 Reviewed on: 18/05/2023
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