Waking up with a headache: causes and prevention

September 30, 2020 3 mins read
Waking up with a headache: causes and prevention

Waking up with a headache is, quite frankly, a headache. If you frequently find yourself starting the day with a dull or throbbing ache behind your eyes, it could be time to figure out why.

Let’s explore what’s causing your morning headaches and what you can do to stop them from striking.

Why am I waking up with a headache?

Stress, illness, dehydration, hormones and hunger… many things can cause a headache during the day. But if you’re waking up with a headache (when you went to bed without one), could your sleep quality be to blame?

One of these sleep issues could be causing your headache in the morning. Take a look.

Lack of sleep

When was the last time you got 8 hours of sound sleep? We’re talking solid, uninterrupted sleep where you woke up feeling refreshed in the morning. The link between a headache and sleep boils down to how your body recharges itself during shut-eye; rejuvenating tissue in the brain and body and replenishing cells while you sleep.

If you’re not sleeping well (read: struggling to fall asleep, tossing and turning, and frequently waking up), you could be sleep deprived. A tired brain could result in a relentless headache when you wake up in the morning.

Depression or anxiety

Waking up with a headache has been linked to insomnia, which is a symptom of depression and anxiety. These serious mood disorders are often treated with anti-depressants and other medications, which can affect your sleeping patterns and leave you waking up with a headache.


Snoring can cause a pounding head in the morning. If you’ve noticed that you’ve been waking up with a headache since your bed partner started complaining about your snoring, then it may be time to find a remedy.

Snoring can lead to sleep apnea, which is a disorder that happens when your tongue blocks your airways. This disruption can stop oxygen from reaching your lungs, upping the carbon dioxide in your blood and raising the blood pressure in your head – a recipe for a morning headache.

Grinding your teeth

The medical term for grinding your teeth is bruxism. During sleep, clenching and unclenching your jaw and grinding your teeth can result in a headache in the morning. Lifestyle changes like meditation, de-stressing through massages and aromatherapy can help to ease teeth grinding and the knock-on effect of a headache.

Strained muscles

Your sleep posture isn’t just a comfy way to settle in when you turn in. Instead, the way you position yourself on your pillow and bed affects the muscles in your neck, shoulders and arms. The strained muscles in the neck and upper body could lead to waking up with a headache. A simple gesture, like adjusting your posture in bed or getting a better pillow could help to avoid a headache.


A 2004 study found that waking up with a headache is more prevalent in people who are heavy drinkers. That’s because alcohol dehydrates the body, which affects the neurotransmitters in the brain, and which triggers headaches.

How do you get rid of morning headaches?

To avoid waking up with a headache, create a nighttime routine, including practising good sleep hygiene that will relax you and prepare you for quality rest. Do this by sticking to a sleep schedule and maintaining a healthy sleep environment.

Keep your room clean and tidy, well ventilated and limit the amount of blue light you indulge in before bed. Eat for sleep success by having lighter meals and by reducing caffeine intake before bed. You’ll soon find that by sticking to these tips, waking up with a headache will be a thing of the past.