7 Causes of Morning Headaches & How to Prevent Them

SELF – Men’s and Women Health & Fitness

To combat caffeine-withdrawal headaches, try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon, Jennifer Kriegler, M.D., a physician in the Center for Headache and Pain at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. If you’re trying to go caffeine-free but could do without the headache, wean yourself off slowly. She recommends having a quarter cup of decaf with the rest regular, and gradually decreasing how much caffeine you have over time.

5. You could be grinding your teeth at night.

Grinding your teeth can cause tension in your temporomandibular joints (TMJ), which connect your lower jaw to your skull in front of your ear, and it can also cause changes in the positioning of your jaw, Dr. Sachdev says. All this leads to tension, which can spark a headache. On top of a headache, you might also feel tightness or pain in your jaw, pain that feels like an earache, or pain or sensitivity in your teeth.

If you suspect that your morning headaches are due to teeth grinding (or your dentist has flagged you as a teeth grinder), talk to your doctor about next steps, which can include wearing a protective bite guard at night, Dr. Kriegler says.

6. You had an alcoholic beverage (or several) before bed.

While you’re more likely to have a headache the morning after a rager versus a glass of wine with dinner, it’s possible to get an a.m. headache either way. Alcohol has an effect on several neurotransmitters in your brain associated with headaches, which may be a big reason drinking can lead to headaches or even trigger migraines in vulnerable people, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., tells SELF. According to the Mayo Clinic, red wine in particular is a common headache culprit. Alcohol is also a diuretic (meaning, it causes you to pee), and many people wake up dehydrated after drinking, which can exacerbate a hangover headache or cause one to form, she says.

The solution is pretty simple: Avoid drinking too much. And if you notice that certain types of booze give you a headache more than others, even when you have just a glass, it’s probably best to take a pass on those in the future.

7. In rare cases, it could be something more serious.

When people describe morning headaches, Dr. Williams says it gets his attention because there’s a chance it could be due to something potentially serious, like increased pressure from a brain tumor or mass. People with brain tumors often wake up early with a headache because cerebrospinal fluid pressure rises during the night when you’re lying down, Dr. Kreigler says. “If the tumor is causing swelling, this will stretch the coverings of the brain and cause headaches,” she explains.

This is obviously rare and not the most likely cause of morning head pain, so don’t freak out and assume the worst. If you did have a brain tumor, Dr. Williams says you’d probably also experience symptoms like changes in vision, loss of vision, changes in balance, feelings of drowsiness, and changes in your mental status. It’s much more likely that your morning headaches are caused by something much less serious.

How to prevent morning headaches

As you may have noticed, preventing morning headaches is mostly about addressing the root of the issue—whether that’s cutting back on drinking, getting a mouth guard to prevent grinding, or any number of things we talked about above. That said, looking after your sleep hygiene in general is an excellent preventive measure, given how a poor or irregular sleep schedule ups your chance of headaches. Plus, it’s great for your overall health.

A lot of factors can impact your sleep, but to start, the Mayo Clinic suggests sticking to a regular bedtime, getting exercise during the day, watching your food and caffeine intake in the hours before bed, and prioritizing stress management so you don’t keep yourself up all night worrying. You might also want to check out our list of mistakes that might be interfering with a good night’s sleep.

The bottom line: If you occasionally wake up to a headache, it’s probably no big deal, but you might benefit from taking a closer look at your sleeping habits. If it happens regularly, though, talk to your doctor so you can find out what’s causing them—and fix it.

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