Six reasons that might explain why you wake up with a headache in the morning

Waking up with a pounding headache is never a good way to start the day, but there's several reasons why you could be opening your eyes in pain.

As many know, a headache can cause dull, sharp, or throbbing pain and can be debilitating at times.

Some people experience headaches briefly, for an hour or less, or for a prolonged period up to a few days.

Types of headaches sometimes associated with morning headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, hypnic headaches, tension headaches, paroxysmal hemicrania, and headaches caused by overuse of medication.

Here's six different reasons why your head may be sore when you wake up in the morning…

Poor night’s sleep

Whether you suffer from insomnia or simply had a one off night of broken sleep, not having a decent time in the land of nod can contribute to a nasty headache.

Scientists have found a clear link between a lack of sleep and migraine and tension headaches.

It appears that a lack of sleep reduces the body’s pain threshold, making it more prone to headaches.

A 2015 study found that people with insomnia and other sleeping issues appear to be more sensitive to pain than those who don’t experience these issues.

Snoring or sleep apnea

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Snoring is annoying at the best of times – whether it's you waking yourself up with your own sounds, or being woken up by a partner, it can be hard to have a peaceful rest.

Disrupted sleep caused by snoring or sleep apnea can also be the source of your early morning headaches.

Snoring can be a condition on its own or a symptom of sleep apnea, which causes individuals to stop breathing at times throughout the night.

Generally, headaches associated with sleep apnea last for less than 30 minutes.

You can treat sleep apnea with special equipment, such as a continuous positive airway pressure machine.


If you're not drinking enough water during the day, you may find that you wake up with a headache.

A dehydration headache is a secondary headache, caused by not having enough fluid in the body.

Dehydration headaches can be relatively mild or severe as a migraine and the body requires the proper balance of fluid and electrolytes to function properly.

Every day, the body loses water through daily activities, such as sweating and urinating, and sometimes the body loses water faster than it can be replenished.

When our bodies are dehydrated, the brain can temporarily contract or shrink from fluid loss. This mechanism causes the brain to pull away from the skull, causing pain and resulting in a dehydration headache.

Once rehydrated, the brain plumps up and returns to its normal state, relieving the headache.

Medication or alcohol use

Most people know the familiar feeling of waking up with a fuzzy head the morning after consuming too many glasses of wine.

Drinking heavily can result in uneven sleep and an early morning headache, one of the main symptoms of a nasty hangover.

Medications can also interfere with your regular sleeping patterns, resulting in disrupted sleep.

You should talk to your doctor if you suspect your medications are causing early morning headaches and avoid the overconsumption of alcohol to prevent hangovers.

Grinding your teeth

Many people grind their teeth whilst sleeping without even knowing and this is known as sleep bruxism.

It can cause individuals to have a headache when they wake up in the morning, which is generally dull in nature and can be felt near the temples.

Bruxism is also linked to other sleep conditions like sleep apnea, and it may cause damaged teeth and jaw pain.

Treatment may involve a mouth guard, stress reduction techniques, or behaviour changes.

Depression or anxiety

Our mental health can often be related to physical ailments such as headaches and migraines.

One study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the most significant factors for chronic morning headaches were anxiety and depression.

Mental health conditions can also lead to insomnia, which can further increase your risk of suffering from morning headaches.

If you suspect you may have a mental health condition, you should talk to your doctor.

These conditions can often be managed with talk therapy, medication, or a combination of treatments.

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