Science Explains Why People Wake Up With Headaches (And How to Stop Them)

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When you wake up, you want to feel refreshed. You want to start your day with a clear head and a smile so that the rest of your day goes well and you can go about daily tasks with positive thinking. For some people, that isn’t possible. There are people all around the world who greet the day every morning with splitting headaches or migraines.

Headaches can have a severe effect on a person’s ability to perform basic tasks and live their lives painlessly. Luckily, research and studies have figured out why this happens, and what can be done to manage and prevent the problem. Here are some reasons why people wake up with a headache, and how to stop them.

5 Reasons Why People Wake Up With A Headache (And How To Stop Them)

1. Diet

Food provides the body with fuel, but it also provides the body with information. What you eat is broken down and its components are transported throughout the whole body in complex processes. Anyone of these processes may be negatively affecting you.

This is especially relevant if you suffer from regular migraines and chronic headaches. Even healthier food options can trigger morning headaches in some people, so you can only imagine what junk food can do! Some of the most common causes include dairy, gluten, and soy, but each person will experience these differently.

Generally, having an unhealthy diet isn’t good for the body in any way, but it can be even more damaging if it causes headaches. Try to balance your food intake and include the necessary nutrients. If you’re already diet-conscious and still facing these issues, keep a food diary and log what you eat. Compare your diet against the frequency of your headaches until you find what is causing the migraines.

2. Too Much Or Too Little Sleep

Keeping bad sleeping habits is one of the most common reasons headaches occur. Luckily, it’s also the easiest problem to fix. Sleeping the right amount helps to restore and rejuvenate the brain, allowing you to recuperate in a variety of ways.

Sleep has also been shown to affect experiences of pain, whether physical or emotional. Sleeping too little makes you more sensitive to pain, which is why getting not enough sleep can cause migraines. That said, all forms of bad sleeping habits are harmful. Whether you sleep too little, too much, wake up too often during the night, or have irregular habits, you are harming yourself.

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The best way to fix this is to get the right amount of sleep. The optimal amount is eight hours per day, but getting between seven to nine hours should also be fine for most people. Try to ensure that you’re sleeping easily through the night and not waking up too often. Set a sleep routine that involves consistently sleeping and waking at the same times each day.

“If you’re waking up in the morning with headaches, I recommend deep breathing exercises or meditation before bed, as well as a quick ten-minute meditation in the morning. This will help reset your thoughts and keep any daily stresses at bay.” – Anna Morrison

3. Stress

Life is always going to come with its fair number of stressors. But if your stress is causing severe mood issues during the day or resulting in your spending hours lying awake at night, it could be the cause of your headaches.

The best way to prevent headaches caused by stress is to find ways to reduce that stress. You can start learning mindfulness meditation, set aside some time for exercise, or learn to see things that typically frustrate you from a new perspective. Sometimes, just making sure you get to spend some quality me-time daily can be enough to reduce stress levels.

Some people who experience anxiety may mistake it for stress, and that anxiety can very severely interfere with sleep. If you suspect that you have an anxiety disorder, speak to a therapist or other mental health professional to find management solutions.

4. Alcohol

If you often drink before going to bed, even just a little, you could be doing your body harm and causing your migraines. Although alcohol can help you to fall asleep faster, it prevents your body from sinking into the deep sleep stage of your sleep cycle. Without deep sleep, your body can’t get the rest that it requires to help your body feel fully restored.

Alcohol can also shorten your overall sleep time, make you wake up more often, and mess up sleep patterns. Along with lacking deep sleep, all these factors can trigger your headaches and migraines. Although alcohol can also result in hangovers that lead to migraines, the way it disrupts sleep is far more likely to cause headaches in the morning.

To circumvent this problem, avoid drinking alcohol less than three hours before bed. If you really need to drink something before hitting the sack, opt for decaffeinated tea, milk, or – best of all – some warm water.

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5. Clenching Your Jaw Or Grinding Your Teeth

The act of grinding teeth or clenching the jaw can put a lot of force and stress on the face. The tension caused by these actions not only hurt and exhaust the muscles in the jaw but are a very common cause of headaches and migraines.

Unfortunately, this is a mainly unconscious nighttime action, and you need to have this condition professionally diagnosed by a dentist. Some signs to look out for are a stiff jaw when you wake up, headaches particularly revolving around aches in the temples or even tooth damage that doesn’t seem to have any plausible cause. Do note that sometimes there are no obvious symptoms other than the headaches, though.

Go to a dentist if you suspect that this might be the cause of your headaches. A dentist can provide you with something called an occlusal splint that guards the mouth, stopping full contraction of the jaw and thus relieving tension.

Final Thoughts

Headaches are no fun, and they can really cause problems for those who start their day with them every single morning. Not only will this be the cause of a lot of discomfort, but it can also affect focus, positive thoughts, mental health, and overall productivity. By understanding the causes behind these morning headaches and knowing how to fix them, you can prevent them from continually occurring.


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