Why do I wake up with headaches every morning? You may wake up with headaches every morning because of sleep disorders, migraines, depression, certain medications, alcohol consumption, poor posture, or bruxism.

Morning headaches affect 1 in 13 people, according to an article published in The Archives of Internal Medicine.

But just because it’s common doesn’t mean you have to wake up every morning with head pain and live with it.

How can I stop waking up with a headache? You can stop waking up with a headache by seeking chiropractic care, taking OTC medications, or making specific lifestyle changes, like getting good sleep, avoiding alcohol and drugs, cutting out caffeine, and relieving stress.

This article will help you understand the common causes of morning headaches.

At Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic, we believe in treating the root causes of your morning headaches. Contact us right away to set up an appointment.


Migraine headaches include symptoms such as intense throbbing pain, a stiff neck, anxiety, and even light or sound sensitivity. Migraines are usually on only one side of your head and may last hours or even days. Many consider migraines to be the most severe headache.

The most common time for migraine attacks is in the early morning. According to the National Headache Foundation’s page on “Early Morning Awakening Headache,” the body tends to produce fewer natural painkillers (endorphins, enkephalins) between 4:00 and 8:00 AM.

Migraines commonly occur early in the morning because most medications wear off within a few hours, and migraine symptoms may begin during sleep.

If your head starts hurting while you’re asleep, you miss the ideal time to take migraine medicine, which is at the onset of symptoms.

Some individuals experience an aura (a set of visual symptoms) before/during a migraine attack:

  • Bright spots
  • Flashing lights
  • Moving lines
  • Temporary loss of vision (in severe cases)

If you experience morning headaches with aura, it’s almost certainly a migraine.

Sleep Disorders

The National Sleep Foundation finds that 60% of adults report having sleep problems multiple nights a week. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has declared that Insufficient sleep is a national health crisis.

Unfortunately, sleep disorders and headaches go hand in hand. Getting a good night’s sleep is not only good for your overall wellness, but it can also prevent morning headaches.

What causes headaches while sleeping? A variety of conditions can cause headaches while sleeping. A lack of sleep, low-quality sleep, sleep disorders, and poor sleep posture can all lead to morning headaches.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where you experience temporary lapses in breathing while asleep due to upper airway blockage.

OSA may result in teeth grinding at night, headaches in the morning, dry mouth (which is horrible for your oral health), and even decreased quality of life for your bed partner.

Sleep apnea is a hidden cause of early morning headaches. Many cases of sleep apnea go undiagnosed, so it’s hard to know OSA is the root cause of your morning headaches.

Patients typically experience OSA-related morning headaches as pain or pressure occurring on both sides of the head, not just one side.

A sleep study is necessary to diagnose sleep apnea.

Nighttime Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Nighttime grinding, or sleep bruxism, may be a sign of sleep apnea. When you grind your teeth at night, it can lead to jaw pain, ear pain, and headache pain.

Unfortunately, most cases of nighttime teeth grinding go undiagnosed. You may wake up with head pain, jaw soreness, and tooth sensitivity and not understand what caused it.

Your dentist can keep a lookout for early signs of nighttime bruxism, so you can get diagnosed and treated before it leads to long-term complications that will stay with you for the rest of your life.


Insomnia leads to sleep deprivation and morning headaches.

This serious condition disrupts your circadian rhythm and prevents you from getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation results in many health problems, including headaches when you wake up.

According to 2016 research, 20% of migraine sufferers experienced excessive daytime sleepiness, which indicates that 1 in 5 migraines may be linked to sleep disturbances, such as insomnia.


The Sleep Foundation cites a study that says oversleeping can cause morning headaches. However, this 2011 study links both oversleeping and low sleep quality to morning headaches — not oversleeping by itself.

You may experience oversleeping headaches if your sleep quality or sleep posture is poor.

Muscle Tension from Poor Sleep Posture

Muscle tension is a leading cause of headaches in general, including in the early morning. When your sleep posture is poor, this can lead to strained or tense muscles, triggering a morning headache.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They are caused by muscle tension, bad posture, and stress. Poor sleep posture and muscle tenseness can both cause tension-type headaches in the morning.

Stress is another cause of muscle tension and tension headaches. Going to bed with stress on your mind may cause head pain when the sun rises.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the jaw joint. TMJ disorder (TMD) refers to pain in your jaw joint caused by teeth grinding (bruxism) or jaw/head injury.

Headaches are the most common symptom of TMD. TMJ morning headaches occur because of teeth grinding and clenching that you may experience. Also, TMJ morning headaches could be due to poor sleep posture inflaming the TMJ.

Treatments for TMJ headaches include:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Dental procedures
  • Oral splints
  • Exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Pain relievers
  • Antidepressants
  • Surgery


Medication overuse headache (MOH) is when you overmedicate, causing a headache. You may experience MOH when your body builds tolerance to certain medications.

The American Migraine Foundation outlines MOH diagnostic criteria as “[using painkillers] more than 2 to 3 days per week in a patient with chronic daily headache.”

After stopping the following medications, you might expect morning MOH:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Painkillers (Percocet)
  • Ergotamine (Ergomar)
  • Sumatriptan (Zomig, Imitrex)
  • Opiate analgesics, like hydrocodone (Vicodin)

Caffeine is similarly linked to MOH. Caffeine walks a fine line between being a drug and being a nutrient.


A brain tumor is a rare cause of morning headaches. Brain tumors can cause headaches at any time but may be worse in the early morning.

Symptoms of a brain tumor include:

  • Headaches, especially in the morning
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Personality changes
  • Memory problems
  • Seizures

If you suspect you have a brain tumor, talk to a healthcare professional right away. The quicker the diagnosis, the better.

Alcohol or Drugs

Alcohol consumption and drug abuse increase your risk of a morning headache.

You may have a morning headache due to a hangover. When you drink alcohol the night before, you run the risk of waking up with a hangover headache the morning after.

Drinking alcohol is a migraine trigger. Separate from hangover headaches, drinking alcohol can cause a migraine.

Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and opioids, may bring on headaches. Withdrawal from drugs may also cause head pain, including morning headaches.

Prescription drugs may mess with your sleep patterns, leading to bad sleep habits and morning headaches.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are linked to morning headaches. Anxiety and depression can keep you from relaxing and make you worry, leading to migraines.

Waking up with headaches is a common indicator of depression and insomnia.

Anxiety can lead to nighttime teeth grinding or muscle strain, both significant causes of morning headaches.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that the most significant risk factors for morning headaches are depression and anxiety.


Your diet is a crucial preventive measure against morning headaches. A healthy diet means a lower risk of head pain in the early morning. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 1 in 5 headache patients may be food sensitive.

13 common dietary triggers for morning headache:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Chocolate
  3. Monosodium glutamate
  4. Artificial sweeteners
  5. Caffeine
  6. Onions
  7. Garlic
  8. Nitrates and nitrites
  9. Smoked fish
  10. Cured meats
  11. Aged cheeses
  12. Cultured dairy products
  13. Fasting

Dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, and low blood sugar may all lead to waking up with headaches. Therefore, drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine if you have chronic headaches, and make sure your blood sugar levels are normal.

Being obese and being underweight may both be linked to a higher incidence of morning headaches. Poor diet is a contributing factor to obesity.

Migraine sufferers report that missing meals may induce headache pain. Skipping dinner may lead to a migraine that night or in the morning.

Can dehydration cause morning headaches? Yes, dehydration can cause morning headaches. When you’re dehydrated, your brain literally shrinks, pulling away from the inside of your skull. This shrinking triggers a headache.

Allergens in the Home

Home allergens can trigger waking up with headaches, especially after you’ve been sleeping in the same spot for 8 hours.

Two types of headaches are linked to allergies:

  1. Sinus headaches
  2. Migraine headaches

Allergy headaches may be triggered by mold, smoke, pets, certain foods, and so much more.

Black mold exposure will cause headaches if you are allergic to mold. One way to limit mold exposure is to control the humidity in your home and prevent much outside air from getting in.

Rare Causes of Morning Headaches

The following medical conditions are rare causes of morning headaches:

Morning Headache Treatments

How do you get rid of morning headaches? You get rid of morning headaches by identifying the root cause of your headache, then treating the root cause.

For example, if your doctor identifies sleep apnea as the root cause of morning headaches, you may consider CPAP therapy or the DNA oral appliance.

Check out these treatment options and lifestyle changes that may address the possible causes of morning headaches:

  • 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep
  • Relaxation techniques for stress relief
  • Massage therapy for muscle tension
  • Chiropractic care
  • Heat pack for muscle tension
  • Cold pack for migraine
  • Prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, though they may have side effects
  • No longer taking certain medicines (seek medical advice before stopping any medication)
  • Avoiding alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and unhealthy foods
  • CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) for sleep apnea
  • DNA oral appliance for sleep apnea and teeth grinding
  • Mouth guards for sleep apnea

7 tips for getting better sleep:

  1. Reduce screen time a few hours before bedtime since blue light exposure tricks your brain into thinking the sun is out.
  2. Turn the temperature in your bedroom down a couple of degrees.
  3. Take a hot bath before bed, then sleep under cool sheets. As your body temperature decreases, you naturally want to go to bed.
  4. Do not exercise within a few hours of bedtime. Exercising increases your body temperature, making it harder to go to sleep.
  5. Do not consume caffeine within several hours of bedtime, including coffee, sodas, or chocolate.
  6. Limit fluid intake within a few hours of bedtime.
  7. Go to bed and wake up at consistent times.

When to See a Doctor

See a doctor right away if you experience symptoms of a brain tumor alongside morning headaches, such as seizures, vomiting, or memory problems. If you suffer from headaches every morning, you probably need to see a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

At Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic, we treat all sorts of headaches with revolutionary orthospinology adjustments. These upper cervical adjustments are gentle, precise, and often effective.

View patient testimonials on how Dr. Ty Carzoli and his team at Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic helped them. Or check out what to expect for new patients at Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic. We reserve Fridays for out-of-town patients.

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