Why Do I Wake up With a Headache?

Waking up every morning with a pounding headache or tightness around your head is not a pleasant feeling. It is not a good way to start the day and affects your work, quality of life, relationships, and overall health and wellbeing. Seek help from top pain management doctors at Advanced Headache Center who understand what you are going through and rely on the most innovative diagnostic equipment and collaborative approach to provide effective relief. 

Many people wake up in the morning with a headache. There are different reasons for this, and the treatment will depend on the causes and the type of headache they have. In most cases, morning headaches are not a sign of some serious issue and can be managed with over-the-counter medications and home remedies. However, if you suffer from sinus and migraine headaches, it is important to seek medical help as these conditions are serious and should not be left unattended.

Suffering from headaches is a common experience but battling them is not easy if they persist. Treating headaches often becomes challenging because doctors fail to understand what is causing them or what type of treatment will work best for your distress. You should connect with a pain expert doctor to get an accurate diagnosis for your condition.

What Causes Morning Headaches?

There can be many explanations for morning headaches. Some of the common reasons for morning headaches include:

  • Sinus headache
  • Migraine
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Alcohol and drugs
  • TMJ and jaw clenching
  • Caffeine withdrawal

Sinus Headache

Inflamed sinuses are the main reason behind morning headaches, but they clear up on their own by the afternoon. Sinuses get inflamed due to drastic temperature changes or with a shift in season. They mostly occur in the morning as mucus collects and drains while you sleep. You can also wake up with headaches during the high pollen count days.

Breathing in steam or putting a warm cloth over your face can help immensely in relieving the pain and inflammation.

Migraine Headaches

Migraines can occur any time, but a majority of people develop them overnight or when they wake up most mornings. In the early hours, our body’s level of internal body reduction is lowered. In addition to this, our bodies make more adrenaline during this time that results in migraines for some people even after they wake up with a good night’s sleep.

Studies have also shown that people who suffer from migraines typically get them at the same time and they may be suffering from a migraine when they get up. While no exact causes for migraines are known, several triggers lead to pain, including stress, poor sleep, weather changes, mediations, stress and anxiety, and certain foods and smells. Identifying the triggers can help to deal with migraines, and you should also consult a pain specialist to get long-term relief from morning headaches.

Sleep Disturbances

If you are not sleeping well or getting good rest, chances are that you will wake up with a bad headache. Waking up with a headache can affect your concertation and performance during the day. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can keep you awake, cause trouble sleeping or staying asleep. Preventing morning headaches that result from insomnia is possible by getting to the root of the problem as it can be either a primary problem or the result of some other condition.

Plenty of things can cause chronic insomnia or sleep disturbances. It can be anything from stress to poor sleeping habits and mental disorders. Discuss your condition with an expert physician who will diagnose the cause of the headache and suggest the best solutions to improve your sleep quality.

Anxiety or Depression

If you are dealing with mental health issues and face anxiety and depression, it could be the reason behind morning headaches. Anxiety raises the adrenaline levels that, in turn, increase the chances of developing a headache. It is necessary to seek medical help if you are suffering from anxiety or depression, as controlling these conditions might get the headaches under control. Diet, exercise, and relaxation therapies like yoga or deep breathing can resolve this problem to a great extent.

Alcohol and Drugs

Too much alcohol consumption has been linked to morning headaches along with other health risks. It is essential to limit the number of drinks and drink a glass of water in between to lessen its effects.

Some medications can also cause headaches. They include over-the-counter medications that cause rebound headaches. In such cases, it is necessary to consult your doctor about alternative treatment plans for alleviating headaches.

Sleep Bruxism

Headaches also result due to bruxism or grinding of teeth which occurs at night as a sleep disorder. Referred to as sleep bruxism, it may cause damaged teeth and jaw pain.

Grinding your teeth makes the jaw clench that puts immense pressure on the head, causing a headache. If you feel your headaches result from bruxism and jaw clenching, talk to your doctor about it. The doctor will suggest stress reduction therapies, behavior changes, and a mouthguard to prevent headaches.


If you are taking too much caffeine, it might lead to a headache in the morning. Similarly, if you stop taking caffeine all of a sudden, it might cause withdrawal-like symptoms and result in headaches. It is important to take caffeine in moderation and avoid it in the afternoons or evenings to avoid waking up with a headache.

Treatment and Medications

The top pain management doctor specializes in the most comprehensive and focused treatment options to relieve your morning headaches. Once the doctor has determined the cause for morning headaches, they will work hard to suggest solutions that improve your quality of life. Headaches can also be a result of environmental or personal conditions that cause poor quality sleep.

Your doctor might suggest preventative measures to treat morning headaches, including:

  • Healthy sleeping habits that include sleeping timely and going to bed, and waking up at consistent times
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Changing the pillow
  • Preventing migraine attacks by avoiding triggers
  • Taking migraine medications as advised by the doctor
  • Avoiding dehydration
  • Acetaminophen to relieve headache

Do not use any medication without first talking to your doctor. If medications are causing the headaches, consult your doctor to find an alternative. Early morning headaches can result due to any reason. A pain doctor can identify other causes and underlying conditions by carrying out a physical exam, collecting medical history, and suggest imaging tests to diagnose the problem.

Common reasons for morning headaches

When to See a Doctor?

Seek medical help if your morning headache is accompanied by:

With so many conditions causing morning headaches, have your symptoms investigated by the experts to get the best treatment.

Do not let sinus and migraine headaches spoil your mornings. Seek help from the most experienced pain management doctors at Advanced Headache Center who will develop a personalized and time-tested treatment plan to focus on your specific level of pain and identify the triggers you need to avoid. Finding the best ways to deal with morning headaches can improve your quality of life and overall health and give a fresh start to your mornings.

Updated on Jun 6, 2023 by Dr. Amr Hosny (Headache Specialist) of Advanced Headache Center

Amr Hosny, MD, MBA, AQH

Dr. Hosny is an Ivy League Trained, UCNS-accredited, board-certified headache specialist who offers the latest preventive and abortive treatments to provide safe and effective head pain relief. As an active member of prominent organizations and professional societies that advance headache science, education, and management, such as the National Headache Foundation, Dr. Hosney specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide range of head pain disorders, including tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches, to name a few.

Dr. Hosny's reputation for enhancing headache care quality through the use of the most effective and technologically advanced treatment options for persistent primary and secondary chronic headaches has been acknowledged by Castle Connolly and Healthgrades, where he has received over 200 positive reviews. Dr. Hosny is also recognized as a distinguished New York City physician and headache specialist by New York Magazine.

More about Dr. Hosny
Advanced Headache Center 41 5th Avenue,
New York, NY 10003
(646) 763-2222