Why You Keep Waking Up With a Headache

Sleep problems, teeth grinding, and allergies are some possible causes.

If you keep waking up with a headache, a few things could be going on. For starters, poor sleep quality can lead to a headache the next day. So the first thing to do is investigate what, if anything, is interfering with your slumber. Read on for other causes as well.

Sleep Apnea

One common culprit of morning headaches is sleep apnea, a condition in which you periodically stop breathing throughout the night. Your body then wakes you up so you start breathing again. You may not even realize that this is happening. Ask your partner or a friend whether you're a loud snorer—that's often a tip-off.

Note, however, that snoring doesn't always mean you have sleep apnea, according to the National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus resource. Either way, your healthcare provider can refer you for a sleep study, which is the most accurate way to diagnose sleep apnea.


You've probably heard of insomnia, a common sleep disorder that may cause trouble falling or staying asleep, or prevent good sleep, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The NHLBI listed headaches as one of the health problems causes by the condition.

Taking a while to fall asleep, only sleeping for short amounts of time, or waking up too early are all symptoms of insomnia, per the NHLBI. And you may be waking up sleepy and feeling tired throughout the day.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, overnight can cause soreness in the jaw muscles or temporomandibular joint (or TMJ, which is also the commonly used name for the jaw disorder that sometimes involves grinding). That achiness can lead to a headache.

You may not know that you're grinding your teeth, but look out for earache, muscle tenderness, teeth sensitivity, or a sore and painful jaw. These are all symptoms of bruxism, according to MedlinePlus. Your dentist would also be able to detect the problem if it's there.


Your morning headaches could also have to do with pesky allergens. Exposure to dust mites while you sleep (they love to live in your sheets and mattress) can also leave you waking up with an aching head, due to the sinus congestion it causes.

If you suffer from allergies, try using allergy-proof bedding—special pillowcases, mattress covers, and duvets designed to protect you from exposure to mites—and washing your sheets more frequently. An allergist, if you've never seen one, can help you find additional ways to relieve symptoms so you're headache-free in the morning and sneeze-free for the rest of the day.


Although these recurring headaches can happen anytime, migraines are more common in the mornings, according to MedlinePlus. They often present on one side of the head, with moderate to severe pulsing or throbbing pain.

Other signs you might have a migraine include nausea, weakness, and sensitivity to light and sound. There are also potential symptoms that can start up to 24 hours before the headache, such as auras.

Lack of Sleep or Oversleeping

Sleeping too much or too little can be triggers for tension headaches, according to a March 2019 paper published in the journal Neurological Sciences. These often feel like a band squeezing the head, according to MedlinePlus. You may also feel pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety can also trigger tension headaches in the morning, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. If you notice headaches happening during times you experience or anticipate stress (such as in the mornings before work), talk to your healthcare provider to rule out a mental health condition as the cause.

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