Nobody wants to wake up with a throbbing headache. After all, the way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day — and a painful headache or migraine isn’t exactly going to put you in the right mindset to take on the world.
While other causes can contribute to morning headaches, frequent, recurring headaches are a known symptom of sleep apnea. Understanding why sleep apnea causes these headaches, as well as how to take action to prevent them, is crucial for improving your overall well-being.
The Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Morning Headaches
Sleep apnea interrupts your rest as your breathing passages close off while you are asleep. This typically occurs when fatty tissues in the throat obstruct your airways, cutting off the flow of oxygen. These pauses in breathing often last for over 10 seconds. This eventually sends a signal to your brain that forces you to wake up so you can start breathing normally again.
At the same time, the blockage of your breathing passages traps air in the lungs. This air has already become deoxygenated, and is instead filled with carbon dioxide. Over the course of the night, the repeated cycle of air getting trapped in the lungs as you temporarily stop breathing will cause carbon dioxide buildup in the bloodstream.
This causes blood vessels in the brain to become dilated, which will result in a painful headache when you wake up in the morning.
Sleep apnea-induced headaches typically go away within an hour or two after you wake up, as a return to normal breathing allows more oxygen to get into the bloodstream. Unlike a migraine, the pain from a sleep apnea headache will often affect both sides of the head. Patients are also less likely to experience migraine-related symptoms like nausea and extreme light sensitivity.
Are Your Headaches From Sleep Apnea, or Something Else?
While sleep apnea is a common contributor to morning headaches, it isn’t the only possible culprit. Other causes of morning headaches include:
- Insomnia: Anything that causes sleep deprivation is likely to leave you with morning headaches. Insomnia, or an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep, will keep you from getting enough rest. Excess fatigue from insomnia can also contribute to migraines.
- Alcohol consumption: The cliche of a next-morning hangover after a night of heavy drinking isn’t limited to fiction. Excess alcohol consumption, particularly before bed, can cause a morning headache and disrupt sleep. Certain prescription medications can also contribute to morning headaches.
- Anxiety and depression: Studies indicate that anxiety and depression are the most significant factor in predicting the frequency and intensity of morning headaches. This can be further compounded by the fact that anxiety and depression are known causes of insomnia.
- Bruxism: Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw during your sleep will typically result in a dull headache near the temples. Left unchecked, it can cause significant damage to your teeth and jaw as well. Interestingly, bruxism is also a potential symptom of sleep apnea.
CPAP: The Solution For Stopping Sleep Apnea
Not sure if your morning headaches are connected to sleep apnea? There are several additional symptoms that can help indicate that sleep apnea is to blame. These include extreme daytime fatigue that also results in concentration and mood problems. However, the most obvious signs of sleep apnea are usually observed by a partner. These include gasping or choking in one’s sleep, loud snoring with sudden pauses, and interruptions to breathing.
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, your next step is to schedule a sleep study. During these studies, sleep specialists monitor your breathing, heart rate, and brain activity during an overnight visit. This allows them to determine whether you suffer from sleep apnea or another disorder.
If you do have sleep apnea, you will be prescribed a CPAP machine, which is generally considered the standard for managing this condition. A CPAP machine provides a continuous flow of pressurized air via a mask and tubing to keep your airways open throughout the night. The air pressure setting is determined by a medical specialist, based on the observed severity of your condition.
By preventing the airway blockages associated with sleep apnea, your CPAP machine will help you enjoy uninterrupted sleep, eliminating morning headaches and other side effects of sleep apnea.
Of course, you must remain compliant with your CPAP therapy in order to enjoy these benefits. Adapting to wearing a CPAP mask can be an adjustment, but you can ease this transition by getting a CPAP machine that includes features like ramping pressure. A mask that fits snugly but comfortably will also make it easier to adapt to this change in your nightly routine.
Get the CPAP Equipment You Need at No Insurance Medical
By using a CPAP machine to mitigate your sleep apnea, you won’t just be able to say goodbye to those pesky morning headaches. You’ll get the uninterrupted sleep you need to feel truly refreshed at the start of each day.
For some, however, getting CPAP equipment at an affordable price can be headache-inducing in and of itself. That isn’t the case when you order from No Insurance Medical Supplies. In addition to offering discounted prices on CPAP machines, masks, and more from leading brands like ResMed, Fisher and Paykel, and Philips Respironics, available financing allows you to break your purchase into affordable monthly payments.
Don't wait to improve your sleep and eliminate your morning headaches. If you have a CPAP prescription, you can place your order today so you can start enjoying better sleep.