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Understanding the Connection Between Sleep and Headaches

A woman in bed who is waking up with headache pain

There is a profound connection between getting a restful night’s sleep and developing a headache. Not only is not getting enough sleep a headache trigger, but it’s common to get a headache from sleeping too much. Naps can trigger a sleep headache, and insomnia is a condition that causes headaches in many people.

The purpose of this article is to address the connection between sleep and headaches to help headache sufferers develop better sleep habits and reduce their symptoms. With a better understanding of these matters, it is possible to facilitate a better sleeping environment and reduce the occurrence of waking up with headache pains.

Why Does One Wake Up with Headache Pain?

The body is naturally programmed to benefit from a specific amount of sleep, and headaches commonly occur when that amount is too little or too much. Headaches that occur first thing in the morning could be caused by everything from sleep apnea to depression and grinding of the teeth. Allergens caused by dust mites in bedding may also be to blame.

Waking up with headache pain is common because the body emits its lowest levels of natural painkillers at this time of day. Oftentimes, morning headaches go away on their own, but pain relieving medications with a low dose of caffeine, such as Vanquish, can fight many types of tough headaches.

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Sleep Deprivation and Waking Up with Headache Pains

When the body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, you can wake up with headache pains. In many studies, sleep deprivation has been linked to triggering headaches and migraines, and even small sleep disturbances throughout the night can have a similar effect. Test subjects deprived of REM sleep have exhibited changes in protein levels that are tied to chronic pain. People who are sleep deprived may secrete high levels of protein that keep the nervous system active, and this arousal can be strong enough to trigger pain.

Headache from Sleeping Too Much

Although it is somewhat less common, getting too much sleep can actually trigger tension headaches and migraines. Many people think there’s no harm in getting some extra shut-eye, but oversleeping, even on just weekends and holidays, can result in increased head pain. This is because excess sleep affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and serotonin levels. And this is also why it’s so important to keep a regular sleep schedule regardless of the day or situation.

How Naps Can Cause a Sleep Headache

Naps can be a wonderful thing and well-deserved at times. But midday sleep also has a way of disrupting nighttime sleep and resulting in overall sleeping problems. Waking up with headache pain after a nap is likely due to rising at an inopportune time. The body goes through various stages during the sleep cycle, which means that naps of more than 20 to 45 minutes may result in a deeper sleep that ends in a headache.

Insomnia and the Sleep Headache

Of course, one of the most common and most frustrating sleep disorders is insomnia, which involves an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Insomnia is a risk factor for tension headaches and migraines, as well as increased headache frequency. It is often necessary to get to the root of the problem of one’s insomnia in order to treat the side effect of headache. Good sleeping habits, such as scheduling a consistent bedtime and avoiding food and exercise before bed, go a long way in preventing both conditions in many people.

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