When You Keep Waking Up with a Headache – What to Do to Fix Your Mornings

Researchers have found that around 1 in13 people suffer from headaches first thing in the morning. For how widespread it is, this phenomenon isn’t discussed too often.

Headaches can have a significant negative impact on your day. Instead of waking up cheerful and well-rested, you have to face your tasks while feeling off-balance. This impacts both your mood and your ability to concentrate.

If this happens every time you wake up, you might assume that headaches are impossible to avoid. But the truth is that there are many different causes behind this experience. Depending on the source of the headache, you might be able to find a solution.

Types of Morning Headaches

Doctors say that there are over 150 different kinds of headaches. Let’s look at the types you might develop during the night.

  • Migraines

When you wake up in the morning, your body’s natural defenses against pain are at its lowest point. Consequently, you are particularly vulnerable to various pain conditions, including migraines.

A migraine is a severe chronic condition, and medical science isn’t yet sure of its underlying cause. Migraines are characterized by severe, disabling pain that comes as a response to an external or internal trigger. There is definitely a genetic component that impacts this process. Common triggers include strong smells, loud noises, hormone level fluctuations, and exhaustion.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, almost half of all migraines happen between 4 and 9am.

  • Tension Headaches

These headaches are caused by muscle contractions in the neck and head. You might suffer from a tension headache after looking at your screen for a long time. They’re also caused by smoking, poor posture, stress, and fatigue.

It’s not always easy to tell whether you’re having a migraine or a tension headache. Generally speaking, migraines are more severe.

The Potential Causes of Early Morning Headaches

If you keep waking up with a headache, what to do will depend on what’s causing the pain. Here are some of the possible reasons why you’re starting the day with a headache:

  • Getting Woken by a Migraine

If the symptoms of your migraine are severe, you might find it very difficult to get enough sleep.

  • Strained Neck Muscles

When you fall asleep in an uncomfortable position, there’s a chance you’ll wake up with a tension headache. This is why high-quality pillows are an important part of sleeping hygiene.

Note that you can also get a tension headache from hypertension or other medical conditions that affect the muscles.

  • Alcohol or Medication

People who drink to excess have to consider the possibility of waking up with a hangover. Hydration is one of the ways you can curb the symptoms. In addition to alcoholic drinks, there are various medications that can cause early-morning headaches.

  • Depression and Anxiety

Here are two frequent causes of morning headaches. Statistics show that over 18% of US adults struggle with an anxiety disorder, which makes it the most common mental illness in the country.

Anxiety and depression are often interlinked. Nearly half of people with depression experience anxiety as well. You shouldn’t leave either condition untreated.

  • Sleeping Disorders

Many people get headaches as a result of fatigue. While fatigue can come from your lifestyle choices, it can also be caused by insomnia or sleep apnea. If you can’t sleep through the night sleep without waking up, seek medical advice.

  • Bruxism

This is a medical term for inadvertently grinding your teeth. It can happen when you’re awake, but it usually occurs while you’re asleep. Bruxism has been linked to sleep apnea and it also tends to be a symptom of anxiety.

  • Other Health Concerns

There are a few more options you should take into account. For example, sinus headaches aren’t closely related to your sleeping cycles, but you may feel them more intensely in the early hours.

How Can You Address This Problem?

First, let’s look at a few simple lifestyle changes you can implement right away. Improving your disordered sleeping habits might be enough to free you of the pain you keep waking up with.

  • Plan on enjoying seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Experts say that 7-9 hours is the normal range for adults.
  • Make sure your room is quiet, dark, and slightly cooler than the rest of the house.
  • If possible, aim for consistency. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, which includes the weekends.
  • Don’t keep electronics by your bed, and avoid using your phone directly before you fall asleep.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol to excess, and give up caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

But what if all of these conditions are met and you still have to deal with headaches?

  • Find Out If You Have Sleep Apnea

Here is a widespread but underdiagnosed sleep disorder. It can have a severe negative impact on your overall health. Some people need a surgical procedure to solve this problem, while others can make do with a CPAP machine.

  • Get Treated for Insomnia, Depression, or Anxiety

If you suspect you suffer from insomnia, consult with your doctor. It’s very important to keep in mind that these problems are all interrelated. For example, taking anti-anxiety medication might have a significant impact on your sleeping habits. All of these conditions can be treated successfully.

  • If Necessary, Change Your Pillow and Mattress

Substandard mattresses and pillows can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. As mentioned before, sleeping in the wrong position might lead to tension headaches too.

  • Talk to Your Doctor About Any Medications You’re Taking

Persistent headaches could be an unwanted side effect of drugs, prescribed or otherwise. Don’t hesitate to bring up this concern with your doctors and look for a change in medications.

  • Solve the Underlying Causes Behind Bruxism

By living a less stressful life, you can avoid grinding your teeth at night. If you’re worried about damaging your teeth, dentures might be an acceptable interim solution.


It’s crucial to identify the reason why you keep waking up with a headache. What to do next? The answer depends on your circumstances and medical needs. It’s a good idea to discuss your experiences with your doctors. Whatever your situation is, you don’t have to look for a solution alone.