EVEN if we feel absolutely rotten when our head hits the pillow, most of us go to sleep knowing we'll be somewhat refreshed by the morning.
But not everyone is so lucky.
One in 13 people are greeted by a clanging headache from the moment they wake up, according to research.
There's a few reasons you might be having such a painful start to your day.
Often, your morning headaches – though less than ideal – aren't something to be overly concerned about. They could be caused by the few too many drinks you had the night before or even something you ate.
But if you're getting them frequently, you should definitely speak to a GP about it.
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Here are some potential reasons for your not-so-good mornings.
1. You have sleep apnoea
According to Cedars-Sinai neurologist Nasima Shadbehr, chronic morning headaches are usually are either a migraine or a tension headache.
A migraine often feels like throbbing pain on one side of your head, along with symptoms such as sensitivity to light or nausea.
Tension headaches tend to feel like a tight bad of pressure around your head. You're more likely to experience this if you suffer from anxiety or depression, according to Dr Shadbehr.
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Whatever the kind of headache you have, the neurologist told Self it could be caused by sleep apnoea – this is when your breathing stops and starts in your sleep.
It can be hard to know you have it if you sleep alone. But if your bed fellow complains that you're making gasping, snorting or choking noises and snoring loudly, chances are you have it.
The NHS says that other telltale signs you're suffering from sleep apnoea include:
- feeling very tired during the day despite having slept
- find it hard to concentrate
- having mood swings
- having a headache when you wake up
The reason this breathing quirk makes your head sore?
According to sports neurologist Vernon Williams, a lack of oxygen can lead to increased pressure in the head that spurs a headache.
2. You're grinding your teeth at night
Another nighttime habit that might be giving you a morning headache is teeth grinding.
Many of us won't even realise we're doing it, and the same goes for when we're sleeping.
The habit can develop a lot of tension in your jaw, which can in turn cause a pounding morning headache.
According to the NHS, symptoms of teeth grinding can include:
- face, neck and shoulder pain
- a painful jaw, which can lead to a condition called temporomandibular disorder
- worn-down or broken teeth
- disturbed sleep
3. You're sleeping poorly
A third of Brits will experience insomnia at some point in their life, which involves finding it hard to sleep, waking up during the night and still feeling tired after waking up.
According to Dr Shadbehr: “There is an integral relationship between sleep and headaches. Poor sleep quality can cause headaches, and improved sleep quality can help relieve them.”
There are plenty of things that might be causing your poor sleep and insomnia, from stress, anxiety and depression to alcohol, caffeine and nicotine or an uncomfortable sleeping environment.
The NHS recommends going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, relaxing before bed with a book or bath rather than your phone, exercising regularly and making sure your bedroom is dark.
You should speak to a GP if changing your sleeping habits has little effect or you have trouble sleeping for months, to the point where it's affecting your daily life.
4. You're using too many painkillers
Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication too often or for too long can cause medication overuse headaches, according to Dr Shadbehr.
Waking up with a headache can mean your overusing your meds, as your body is withdrawing from them overnight.
To avoid these, Dr Shadbehr advised using OTC painkillers no more than 10 days a month or a couple of times a week. Your doctor can help you if you need help gradually weaning off them.
5. It's something you ate or drank
Food allergies and sensitivities can trigger migraines, according to a study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain.
A 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients found that processed foods, processed meat, red wine and aged cheese are all common culprits.
Coffee can also be the cause of your morning headache. If you don't have as much as usual during the day, your body might go through withdrawal at night. This might be a sign to wean off the brew and avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
6. You're anxious or depressed
Suffering from anxiety or depression can make you more prone to headaches, including in the morning.
The relationship also goes the other way, as people suffering from migraines are more likely to have depression or anxiety, according to Dr Shadbehr.
It's important to seek help from a GP if you think you may be depressed, NHS guidance says. They can also help if anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress.
7. There's a very small chance you have a brain tumour
There's a very small chance your morning headaches can be caused by increased pressure in your brain from a brain tumour or mass.
It's very rare that that's the cause of your sore head when you wake up and it wouldn't be the only symptom you experience.
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Cancer Research UK recommends you speak to a GP if you have headaches:
- with feeling or being sick
- when you didn't have them before
- that wake you up at night
- with eye problems such as seeing flashing lights or blind spots
- that got steadily worse over a period of weeks or months
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