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Why You Are Waking Up With a Headache

Medically Reviewed & Written By: Bobby Afshari (B.Pharm.MPS)
Last Updated: 11/09/2020


According to Healthline, 1 in 13 people experience morning headaches. As a fairly common occurrence that many people have experienced throughout their lives, there are a range of causes and underlying consequences that surround the problem of waking up with a headache .

Provided that there are no problems surrounding your sleep habits, mental health and general habits, getting up in the morning should be an enjoyable experience, in which you feel fresh, rejuvenated and ready for the day. On the other hand, if you are experiencing chronic headaches or an early morning headache, waking up every day can be unpleasant and it could be a sign of a more severe problem.

With everything from sleep disorders to general migraines possibly playing a part in the occurrence of a morning headache, it is important that you keep in mind the symptoms you are experiencing and possible factors at play if you are affected.

The Type of Headache

If you want to determine what may be causing your morning headaches, you might want to first consider the type of headache you are experiencing. There are a number of headache types that can be associated with morning headaches – common examples of these include:


Migraines when getting up may be the result of a number of factors, such as dehydration, poor sleep, medical withdrawal, or possibly more severe health problems.

Tension Headache

As a form of headache that is often more mild, tension headaches usually can be described as feeling like a tight band is wrapped around your head.

Cluster Headache

This headache type usually involves pain in or around one eye, usually staying on one side of your head. They may come in waves continue for weeks to months.

Other headache examples that may cause you to wake up with headache symptoms include hypnic headaches and medication withdrawal headaches.

Why Do I Wake Up With a Headache Every Morning

Now that you have an understanding of the types of headache you might be experiencing, you should consider your overall health, habits and any other symptoms. There are a number of possible causes of recurring morning headaches, and determining if any may apply to you will help you to find an effective solution.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea, and sleep disorders in general might be one of the most likely causes of waking up with headache symptoms. Occurring in approximately 25% of men and 10% of women, sleep apnea is more common than many people think, and it can affect people of all ages. The sleep disorder limits airflow during sleep which in turn means less oxygen supplied to the brain – this can cause strain on your body and headaches in the morning.

Firstly, there are a number of factors that might put you at a higher risk of experiencing sleep apnea. The most significant factors include obesity and being overweight, and even drinking at night. In addition to these risk factors, other symptoms of sleep apnea include tiredness, a lack of concentration throughout the day, snoring, gasping for air during sleep, and headaches in the early morning and throughout the day.

If you think you might be at risk or are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, our screening test provides a free and convenient way to determine if further action should be taken. When it comes to the treatment of sleep apnea, the method that has proven to be the most effective and appropriate is CPAP therapy – check out our resources page to find out more.


If you are continuing to experience problems with sleep that you have determined are not related to sleep apnea, there may be another sleep disorder at play. Regardless of the particular sleep disorder, insomnia is a symptom, rather than a disease, that can come as a result of many sleep disorders. In addition, it can also be caused by other factors such as diet, drug and alcohol consumption, or can be without a cause. -Insomnia impacts your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and may cause you to wake up early. With a common symptom of this being tiredness due to lack of quality sleep, morning headaches are often associated with insomnia.

Teeth Grinding

The involuntary grinding, clenching or gnashing of teeth during sleep is another factor that can cause headaches, amongst other problems. If you are experiencing teeth grinding, it may be due to stress, over-concentration, and illegal drug use. There are a few approaches you can take to reduce or eliminate the issue and its repercussions – these include wearing bite splints or dental guards, undertaking stress management therapy, and taking medication.


Whilst the cause and effect is often unclear, there is often a significant link between early morning headaches and anxiety or depression, as well as bipolar and other mental health disorders. In a study done by the ADAA, results showed that approximately 11% of people with mental health disorders experienced migraine attacks.

In addition to morning headaches, mental health disorders have other serious symptoms that should not be ignored – if you think you may be experiencing issues regarding your mental health, get in touch with a doctor for medical advice or talk to someone close to you.

How to Prevent Headaches When You Wake Up

When you wake up, headache symptoms can significantly impact the rest of your day. Whether you have considered the possible causes of early morning chronic headaches and think they are relevant or not, there are a number of general steps you can take in order to minimise the likelihood of experiencing further morning headache symptoms.

Firstly, improving your diet can have a great impact on both your sleep and headaches in general. Cutting down on things like sugar in particular might help – also be sure to avoid skipping meals and fasting or dieting too rigorously. In addition to this, regular exercise and fitness can improve both symptoms of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, as well as headaches as you wake and in general.

Another approach that may help to improve your morning headaches could be to consider what you might be drinking – it is important to maintain hydration, and avoid too many sugary or caffeine/caffeinated drinks (particularly before bed).

Finally, a simple approach that you might have overlooked is to change your pillow – often, a pillow that does not suit your comfort needs can cause headaches and neck pain.

Ultimately, waking up with headaches can be an unpleasant experience that impacts the rest of your day – if you think that you may be affected, seek medical advice from a doctor. The sooner you can figure out how to overcome the problem of morning headaches, the sooner you will be able to benefit from pleasant, uninterrupted sleep and comfortable mornings. For more sleep tips, check out our guide on how to get a good nights sleep.

Bobby Afshari (B.Pharm.MPS)

Bobby Afshari (B.Pharm.MPS)

Bobby Afshari studied a Bachelor of Pharmacy and is a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Bobby is the sleep technician at CPAP Online Australia.