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Causes of Morning Headaches
last updated:
Mon, 8/06/2012 1:33 PM

Morning headaches are usually an infrequent, ordinary experience for all people, children or adults. This is pain in various parts of the head, not confined to just one area.  Most headaches are minor, go away quickly and do not come back.  However, because headaches can sometimes be clues to serious problems, they should never be ignored. If you are experiencing headaches as often as every week, you should talk with your doctor to rule out potential medical disorders as a cause.  

Some common causes of morning headaches include but are not limited to:

  • Caffeine Withdrawal – Caffeine can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, caffeine will persist for several hours: it takes about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be out of your body.  Caffeine in moderate amounts increases alertness, but can result in insomnia (the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep), irritability, and yes, morning headaches.  Try to consume as little caffeine as you can in a day.  
  • Bruxism, otherwise known as teeth grinding – People who grind and grit their teeth at night often experience headaches upon awakening in the morning.  People who grind their teeth may be unaware that they are doing this. Usually, they end up with cracked or chipped teeth and lots of soreness in the jaw area of their face.  Sometimes, the pain feels as though it is coming from the ears. Teeth grinding can usually be corrected with oral appliances designed for this. See your doctor and/or dentist about this if you think you are grinding your teeth at night. 
  • Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) – People with this syndrome often experience droopy eyelids, dry, red swollen eyes, various other symptoms and morning headaches.  Interestingly, a recent study in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, reported that FES is strongly associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome.
  • Unusual Body Positions While Sleeping – Some adults, but mostly children, experience tension headaches in the mornings from sleeping in unusual body/head/neck positions throughout the night. If you have children, you can appreciate the many positions that you find them in when you awaken them in the morning, i.e., head hanging off the side of the bed, sitting in almost upright position, etc. 
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome – People who have apnea where they quit breathing in their sleep at night, often experience morning headaches.  If you snore and are experiencing morning headaches, you should talk with your doctor or a sleep specialist about this. 

According to WebMD, a study by a University of North Carolina sleep specialist provides some scientific evidence that good sleep habits can reduce the number of headaches and their severity.

Migraine sufferers who cleaned up their act reduced their headache frequency by 29% and their headache intensity by 40% compared with those who didn't change their sleep habits, Anne Calhoun, MD, reported at the 48th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society in Los Angeles.

If you suffer from morning headaches and you believe it may be Obstructive Sleep Apnea, consult your physician or contact the Methodist Sleep Disorders Center directly by calling 901-683-0044 to determine your best treatment option.

This information is provided by Methodist Healthcare and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.



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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000