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Waking up with a Headache: How to Prevent That

Suffering a headache never made anyone happy. Waking up with a headache, the first thing in the morning is even worse as the day seems to be doomed from the very beginning. It’s terribly unpleasant, but it is not at all uncommon, as probably everyone knows what a headache feels like. 

Despite headaches being associated with stress, tension, and tiredness, surprisingly enough, half of the headaches strike not after a busy day when you’re tired, but in the morning hours while you’re still asleep. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the probability of waking up with one.

So, if you usually wake up with headache and you’d like to learn about its causes and ways to treat it, keep on reading!

Patricia Celan

MD, Psychiatry Resident

Why sleep is so important to our health?

Sleep is a time of restoration, without which people face several health risks. For example, weight gain, poor concentration, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, mania, and other illnesses can be a risk for people who are getting inadequate sleep. Physical and mental health can be improved by good quality, consistent sleep, even strengthening your immune system.

Morning headache causes

To treat a disease or an ailment, you first have to understand its roots. There are quite a few reasons you might end up with a headache, and each person is individual, but headaches usually stem from these sources:


If you often wake up with headache, it’s a possibility that you have insomnia. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems. The primary symptom of insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep. Difficulty to sleep leads to chronic sleep deprivation.  While insomnia is not directly linked to headaches, not getting enough sleep certainly is.

Headache is one of the most common indicators of the body being unwell, while getting enough sleep is one of the few basic necessities to stay healthy. So, constantly not getting enough sleep results in the unpleasant morning headaches.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea and snoring both disturb sleep. Snoring is merely loud breathing while you’re asleep, and sleep apnea is a bit of a more severe disease. Sleep apnea’s common symptom is snoring, but it’s not limited to that only. Those who suffer from sleep apnea may experience breathing disturbance while asleep. It leads to various health issues and might put you at risk of heart diseases. 

Waking up with a Headache

All this adds up and lowers the quality of your sleep.  Not getting a good night’s sleep results in poor overall health and may make the chances of you waking up with a headache get even higher.

Sleep bruxism

Sleep bruxism is a condition that is also known as nocturnal teeth grinding. The main symptom of it is unwilling teeth grinding and jaw clenching while asleep. And it’s a common cause of waking up with a headache.

The causes of it aren’t known, but it is believed to be a result of stress, anxiety, or depression. All these create uneasiness and tension that prevents a person from relaxing, even in their sleep. This way, sleep bruxism occurs. 

Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw aren’t the best things to do if you want to avoid headaches that usually have a lot to do with tension. That’s because it adds unnecessary strain to your jaw muscles and ligaments that closely interact with other head parts. To avoid that, try to do your best to alleviate stress and anxiety in your life.

Using the wrong pillow 

If you wake up and ask yourself, “why do I wake up with a headache?” even if you lead a healthy lifestyle and have no sicknesses, you may need to take a look at your sleeping environment. Yes, it may not even be related to your own body, but rather an object that affects your sleep a lot. It’s the pillow and it has to be the right one for many reasons.

Waking up with a Headache

The pillow is there to hold your head while you sleep to keep you comfortable, so your muscles don’t have to do the job. Having the wrong one results in tension in your neck muscles this way causing waking up with a headache.

The importance doesn’t end here, wrong or old pillow might be the cause of snoring or even sleep apnea, both the issues that might cause waking up with a headache. Just right head elevation is needed to prevent them both, so it’s essential to check if the pillow suits your needs.

To find the right one, you may need to figure out what suits you best. Think of the firmness, your sleeping position, your preferred pillow stuffing and many more. To help you with that, we have an overview of the best pillows out there.


Probably everyone who has consumed an excessive amount of alcohol at least once has noticed that the state you wake up in after a fun night out isn’t as great as it could be. But a few know the real causes of hangover and the headache it brings with itself.

Waking up with a headache after drinking is mostly caused by dehydration. Alcohol is known to be a diuretic. And that means that it dehydrates your body quicker than it would dehydrate naturally. That’s mainly because alcohol contains chemicals that inhibit the production of a hormone called vasopressin. That makes the liquids you consumed go straight to the bladder instead of being used for hydration by the body.

Waking up with a Headache

Dehydration affects the brain, and your blood vessels a lot. Being dehydrated causes headaches that you will most likely wake up with if you drink a little too much the night before.


If you usually wake up with headache, your headache is persistent, and you can’t find any probable causes for it, you may have a migraine. The main difference it has from the usual headache is that it’s reoccurring and is a disease by itself that might be worsened by some aspects, but it functions by itself.

Half of the migraines strike in the morning hours between 4:00 and 9:00 AM, so waking up with a headache is probable if you have a migraine. If you think you might have it try to examine whether your headache is persistent and comes with other symptoms such as dizziness or vision impairment, as they’re common signs of a migraine, to see if it might be it.

If you believe you might have it, you should consult your doctor. Migraines are thought not to be curable permanently, but there are plenty of ways to alleviate the symptoms with medicine.

Medication overuse headache

It’s not often thought about, but taking a lot of medicines can definitely affect your head and cause a headache. That’s because most of the drugs taken daily are in one way or another highly addictive. The body is used to medicine affecting it and alleviating the symptoms it might experience.

If like most medicine, it’s taken in the morning, during the night, the effect fully wears off as the body gets ready for the new dose. The physical dependence and the effects of the drugs constantly affect the brain during the night. Your body using up all the components of the medicine may trigger a headache.

How to avoid waking up with a headache?

If you googled something along the lines of “why do I wake up with a headache?” you must also want to know how to prevent it. It’s pretty self-explanatory that waking up with a headache is unpleasant, and you’d like to avoid that. So here are a few ways to do that.

Regulate your sleep

As you must already know, headaches occur when your body isn’t functioning properly. For it to work fine, you need to take care of it. Sleep and rest are basic necessities required to remain healthy.

Consulting doctors to treat your sleeping disorders, if you have any, can do wonders. The most common ones are insomnia and sleep apnea. They both interfere with getting proper rest and reduce your sleep quality, which results in headaches. So try to take care of that.

Having done that, try to make sure you sleep enough. The minimum required amount of sleep for adults is 7 hours, although it might not be enough for everyone. And also, try to sleep regularly. Having a sleep routine has an amazing impact on sleep quality.

Try to get relaxed before sleep

It’s not necessarily insomnia that’s keeping you awake; it could be anxiety or depression. Studies show that those who suffer from these two mental disorders are more prone to headaches and lower quality of sleep

It can also result in hypertension and cause sleep bruxism. Being tense mentally also shows physical symptoms; one of them is nightly teeth gritting. To avoid that causing waking up with a headache, you should try to get relaxed before bed.

Waking up with a Headache

There are plenty of ways to do it. They include meditation, a relaxing bath, diary writing, reading, or any other activity that helps you unwind. So to avoid waking up with a headache, make sure your before sleep routine doesn’t include any stressful tasks.

Invest in a better mattress and pillow

If you suffer from waking up with headaches, make sure you’re not tense from easily avoidable things such as bad body position when you’re asleep. Poorly chosen mattress may actually induce a morning headache. Those who suffer from soreness and tension could benefit from a memory foam mattress that could relieve that.

Another sleep accessory that might influence the morning headaches even more, is a pillow. That’s because it’s in contact with your neck and, poorly chosen, it could put a strain on your sleeping posture. Try to look for the right pillow for yourself, depending on whether you’re a side-sleeper or a back-sleeper.

Avoid alcohol

One of the easiest ways to prevent waking up with a headache, if it’s due to a hangover, is simply not consuming alcohol. And not drinking is a 100% proven fool-proof method to avoid a hangover! Although some may not be ready to give up drinking altogether.

If you’re one of those people, make sure you limit your intake. 

Alcohol enjoyed in moderation isn’t as bad as pushing your limits and blacking out every Friday night. A glass or two instead of 5 of your favorite drink is undoubtedly better for your health. Try not to over-indulge if you don’t enjoy waking up with headaches.

Another critical thing to do to not have to answer the question of “why do I wake up with a headache?” while consuming alcohol is staying hydrated. A couple of glasses of water in between alcoholic drinks is sure to help you stay hydrated and feel a bit better the next morning.

Mind your medicines

If you’re taking any medication daily, it could be the cause of waking up with headaches every day. The physical dependence on drugs, if taken daily for a prolonged period, is more than probable. Not keeping up the exact same dose in your organism may lead to headaches.

Waking up with a Headache

That could be avoided. Talk to your doctor if you think it could a cause for waking up with a headache. Your doctor might be able to find a better suiting medicine or at least help you manage the effects the current one has on you.

Adjust the temperature

It’s commonly known that you sleep better when you’re cool. Try to make sure your bedroom temperature isn’t too warm for comfort. This way, you’ll fall asleep easier. Not only does it help you to sleep, but cooler air also helps to prevent headaches

If you’re prone to overheating while you sleep, you might want to find a mattress that prevents that. Try looking into latex mattresses as they ‘re known to be the best for staying cool during sleep.

Take care of snoring 

Everyone likes to breathe, right? Ok, we all know it’s the most basic necessity that we wouldn’t survive without. Incorrect intake of oxygen has a lot to do with headaches, and it gets disrupted due to snoring

Waking up with a Headache

While snoring in itself is harmless as it’s only loud breathing while asleep, the causes of it are at fault. It’s caused by blocked airways. That prevents you from breathing normally and also disturbs your sleep. Take care of snoring and you might be able to get rid of your morning headaches.


Waking up with a headache can be unpleasant. It affects your mood and your well-being. There are quite a few different causes for it, including diseases like sleep apnea, sleep bruxism, or a migraine. But it can also be caused by hangovers, overusing medicine, or even using a wrong pillow.

To prevent that, you should try your best to remain healthy: avoid alcohol, make sure it’s not the medicine that’s causing headaches, and regulate your sleep. You should also try to unwind a little before sleep, adjust the temperature in your bedroom, or maybe invest in a higher quality mattress to sleep better

Patricia Celan

MD, Psychiatry Resident

Contributed By Patricia Celan, MD, Psychiatry Resident

Patricia is a post-graduate trainee in psychiatry, working in diagnosing and treating patients with psychiatric conditions. She is passionate about psychotherapy, especially in trauma, anxiety, and...

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Recent User Reviews

better cool

yessss, i really sleep better when I'm cool

Doesnt make any sense

It doesnt make sense when you sleep then got headache

hateee headaches

i had migraines since i was 13 yrs old, what really helps me is to drink a lot of water luckily they dont happen that often

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I think I need higher quality mattress to sleep better.

Nausea -

The worst thing about waking up with a headache is that I feel nauseus, dont wanna eat or take anything... I think is because my pillows are way yoo high.


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The article is great. Easy to understand

Good review!

Good review!


This info is very helpful, I dont sleep well and I feel thats why I feel fatigue and headache in the morning.

very informative

very informative

avoid technologies

avoid phones, tv's, read a book instead, it'll help

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Lately I have been working so much on the computer and waking up with horrible headaches =(( thank you for the advice!



Love cool mattress

I love cool mattress, i hate hot sleep that make me uncomfortable when I wake up

Very informative

This article is very informative!

wrong pillow

i have been using a wrong pillow and facing this kind of problem

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Actually, headache in the morning is really affects your mood and your well-being. I have experienced it

Awesome tips!

Hey, read this article yesterday and changed the pillows I was using. This morning I woke up feeling great! The other pillows were very firm and the neck pain was causing the headache.


Unusual guide. The topic is unusual but basic.

Too hot!

I cant sleep lately, bed is just freaking hot I woke up last night in sweat... Really want a new mattress that doesnt sink and gets hot


Why do I wake up with a headache?

There could be various reasons for that. It can range from health issues such as sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep bruxism, or a hangover to less complicated ones such as wrong bedroom temperature, overusing medicine or even using the wrong pillow . the easiest step to take is replacing the pillow to suit your needs. Check out these pillow reviews and try to find a pillow that wouldn't strain your neck wouldn't strain your neck.

Can a bad mattress influence waking up with a headache?

Yes it can. Mattresses affect your sleep quality the most. It has to be comfortable and suit your body type and sleeping position. here some of the best mattresses you could choose from. Your sleeping quality depends on your comfort while asleep. Not getting enough goof quality sleep is one of the main factors of having a headache.

What is a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses are created mostly from polyurethane and have additional chemicals added that increase its viscosity and density. It’s also often called “viscoelastic polyurethane foam”. In order to create the air movement and let your body “breath” while you sleep, it has open foam bubbles. Memory foam mattresses are created in a way to adapt to your body curves and to also recover their original shape after you get up. Therefore, this kind of top mattresses offer you the feeling as if is created specifically for you.

Do top rated mattresses offer a money-back guarantee? Is there a catch?

All of the top mattress brands offer a money-back guarantee. The free trial usually starts from 90 to 100 nights, and if you don’t like the mattress, you can simply give it back. The majority of best mattress providers will not only give your money back but will also come to get it for free. If the mattress provider is reputable, there won’t be any catch - everyone understands that you have to try the mattress before knowing if it fits you.

What is off-gassing? Is it poisonous?

Off-gassing refers to the odor which comes from a new mattress. It’s the process that happens when volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) leak out of the mattress foam into the air. Those chemicals include both human-made and natural components, including formaldehyde, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), benzene, trichloroethane, and perfluorocarbons. Top rated mattresses will have zero or very minimal off-gassing. Many of them are sent to the customer already after the off-gassing. Is it dangerous, though? Even though the smell can be unpleasant, there’s usually only a very small amount of chemicals that can do no harm to your health.

How long do top rated mattresses serve?

The durability of a mattress depends on the provider and the quality of the materials used. Usually, you get a 10-year warranty, which will be valid in case of any defects. Normally, mattresses will serve you from 7 to 10 years, or even longer. Thus, when you buy the best mattress, you should take it as a long-term investment.