Morning headaches are painful, annoying and kind of confusing. You just woke up, so what could you possibly have done to trigger your discomfort?
Here are 6 surprising causes of morning headaches, and what you should be doing to keep them away.
MORNING HEADACHE CAUSE: YOU DIDN’T GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Your body needs 7 to 8 hours to function normally. So when you get less, it assumes something must be wrong and starts to go into panic mode.
An over-the-counter pain med like ibuprofen or naproxen can help you make it through the morning. They’ll ease the pain by reducing inflammation.
MORNING HEADACHE CAUSE: YOU GOT TOO MUCH SLEEP
If not enough sleep can trigger a morning headache, spending a whole lot of time under the covers will help it, right?
Not so fast: Snoozing for more than 9 hours at night is associated with a decrease in the brain’s level of the hormone serotonin. And low serotonin levels can reduce blood flow to the brain and trigger a headache.
Ibuprofen or naproxen can ease your discomfort, but the best way to keep them from coming back is by getting up after 7 or 8 hours of snooze time.
MORNING HEADACHE CAUSE: YOU DRANK LAST NIGHT
Duh: Over-indulging on alcohol can lead to a significant headache the next morning. But you don’t have to get wrecked to feel booze’s head-pounding effects.
Even a few drinks can make you dehydrated, which reduced the volume of blood flowing to your brain. And that can make your head hurt. Alcohol can also make it harder to get a good night’s sleep—another common headache trigger.
MORNING HEADACHE CAUSE: YOU SNORE
Snoring like a chainsaw can be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that can cause you to choke, gasp for air, and even temporarily stop breathing throughout the night while you’re asleep.
Experts aren’t totally sure why this might lead to a headache. But some experts theorize that less oxygen could cause blood vessels in the brain to expand, increasing blood flow and pressure in your head that can cause pain.
MORNING HEADACHE CAUSE: YOU’RE DEPRESSED
Depression-related headaches can happen at any time of day. That’s because depression is associated with lower levels of the hormone serotonin.
But they could be particularly likely to strike in the morning. Depression can mess with your usual sleep schedule, and snoozing too much or too little can both trigger headaches. The pain can also have an impact on your mood, creating a vicious cycle.
OTC pain meds can help in the short term. But the best way to deal is by addressing the root cause of the problem.
MORNING HEADACHE CAUSE: YOU HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
When you have high blood pressure—defined as 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or above—your blood is actually exerting more pressure on your head. And that extra pressure is a common cause of headaches.
Plenty of people who have high blood pressure don’t know it, since the condition doesn’t have many outward symptoms. (Aside from headaches, which you might attribute to something else.)
So see your doctor if your headaches are frequent and unexplainable. If your BP is too high, she’ll recommend lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, or prescribe blood pressure medication.