Do You Get a Morning Headache? Here’s Why

Last modified: August 2, 2019

Richard Honaker M.D.
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Waking up in the morning with a terrible headache is one sure way to a rotten start of your day. You wake up into a painful, annoying and a bit confusing situation. You don’t know what could possibly have caused this morning headache because you haven’t even done anything yet to trigger such discomfort.

As it turns out, there are many things that could trigger it. Here are some unexpected causes of a morning headache and tips on what you should do to keep them at bay.

Quirky Causes and Tips of that Annoying Morning Headache

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Your body needs around 7 to 8 hours of sleep to operate normally. When you get less, your body feels something might be wrong so it starts to panic. You get an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and stress. And all of those combined have a hand in giving you a headache.

Tips suggest that you take pain medication such as Ibufropen or Naproxen to help you get through the morning. They will reduce the inflammation which can in turn ease your pain.

If you still feel unwell, take a nap for around 30 minutes to help your body rest some more. Remember that longer naps can make you feel more unsteady and wobbly and can even make your headache worse. Then get back to your usual sleep cycle so you won’t have to wake up with a morning headache again tomorrow.


Too Much Sleep

Not having enough sleep is not the only one that can cause a morning headache, too much sleep will do just the same. If you sleep for more than 9 hours at night, you can get a headache mainly because of low serotonin levels that can minimize blood flow to the brain.

Tips recommend that you take the usual pain medication like Ibuprofen and Naproxen, but the best way to prevent it is to get up after 8 hours of sleep. Set an alarm to help you wake up to a headache-free morning.

Low Levels of Endorphins

The production of feel-good endorphin hormones in your body is at its lowest during early morning. For some people, this can cause a morning headache. Low levels of endorphins could affect levels of other neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This can cause blood vessels in your brain to narrow and as a result reduces blood flow to the brain as mentioned in the previous part of having too much sleep.

What’s worse is that experts have no idea why this causes headaches in some but not in others.

Tips say that you should try working out first thing in the morning because exercise triggers the release of endorphins.

Drinking Alcohol the Previous Night

Even if you only had a few drinks last night, those few drinks can still make you dehydrated, which can reduce the volume of blood flowing to your brain. That can definitely make your head hurt. Another reason is that alcohol can make it harder for you to get a good night’s sleep, which is another common cause of a morning headache.

Tips suggest that the best way to counter the effects of drinking is to rehydrate. Drinking water or electrolyte drinks will both do the trick. You can also try taking vitamin C tablets or powder stirred into the water to help your liver process the alcohol more expediently and get it out of your system faster.

You Snore

Snoring like loud heavy machinery could be a sign of sleep apnea. It is a condition that could cause you to choke, gasp for air, and even for some moments stop breathing throughout the night when you sleep. The mentioned choking episodes may only last for a few seconds, but they can still result in less oxygen that should go to your brain.

Experts are not completely certain why this could lead to a headache, but some of these experts believe that less oxygen can result to expanded blood vessels. Such expansion can lead to an increased blood flow and pressure in your head which could cause pain.

You may not even realize that you have sleep apnea unless you sleep with a partner who may tell you about your snoring. So tips recommend that you consult your doctor. Further testing can be recommended if the doctor suspects that you have sleep apnea. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can wear a breathing machine (called CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure) that can manage your condition and get rid of related headaches.

You’re Late with Your Coffee

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, which is why it’s considered as a mild drug. So if you regularly have coffee and you don’t get your daily dose at the usual time you can feel head-hammering effects the moment you wake up.

Caffeine withdrawal immediately yields to expanded blood vessels in your brain. More blood then flows to your brain and use more pressure which can cause a headache. If you’re a heavy coffee drinker or drink your coffee routinely, you will probably get a caffeine headache. Tips say that if you are trying to quit, do it slowly in a week or two. Don’t do it abruptly.



Headaches that are related with depression can occur at any time of the day because depression is connected with lower levels of serotonin. But they could be most likely to happen in the morning.

Since depression can disrupt your usual sleep schedule and sleeping too much or too little can both cause morning headaches, depression can therefore result to morning headaches as well. What’s worse is the pain will most likely impact your mood, which can contribute to your depression. The cycle is less likely to end.

Tips suggest that over-the-counter pain medication can help in the short term, but the best way to deal with it is by resolving the main problem. So if you think that you could be depressed, consult your doctor. Antidepressants or therapy can aid you to go back to your normal daily life so you can solve the problems that cause your headaches.

High Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure means that blood is putting more pressure on your head. And that additional pressure usually causes headaches. Many people who have high blood pressure are not aware of it because the condition doesn’t really have plenty of outward symptoms.

So recommend tips are that you go and consult your doctor if you are having frequent and unexplainable headaches. If your blood pressure is very high, the doctor will recommend that you change your diet, encourage you to exercise, or prescribe blood pressure medicines.

Morning headaches are usually easy to remedy. In rare circumstances though, they can signify a serious latent problem, such as a brain tumor or even an aneurysm. So, tips state that it would be best to consult your doctor if you get frequent headaches that occur at any time of the day for more than twice per week that has already lasted for 3 to 6 months.

You must consult your doctor especially when your headaches are incapacitating or affecting your life or work. The doctor could perform an MRI or EEG to find out what’s going on in your brain, or schedule you for an eye exam because strained eyesight causes headaches as well.

Do you have questions about your morning headache? When do you know if that morning headache is serious? Chat with a doctor online today to get peace of mind.

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Submitted by Dr. Richard Honaker:

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.

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