Medical Moment: Dealing with morning headaches

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 5:37 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - If you find yourself waking up with headaches in the morning, you are not alone.

According to the Sleep Foundation, one in 13 people experience morning headaches.

There are four main types of headaches; tension, migraine, cluster, and sinus.

Treatments vary depending on what type or headache you have and how severe it is. Migraines can last hours or days and can cause vomiting and nausea, but that is the worst case. You can use medication to treat them, or you can just wait it out. If it gets too bad, then seek professional help.

Headaches can be caused by a multitude of things, such as sleep deprivation, caffeine, hunger, or dehydration. To help ease your pain, you can use an ice pack and put it on your forehead, neck, or scalp. You can also try just sitting in a dark quiet room letting your mind put itself in a less jumbled state.

If a headache has lasted more than 72 hours, it might indicate that you should see a medical professional. You should also seek a medical professional if the characteristics of the headache change, if you need more than the recommended amount of pain relievers in a day, and if any natural bodily functions, like coughing, sneezing, or bending over, causes a headache.

“They’re very common in people that are in their most productive years of life though, so 20s, 30s, 40s,” said Teshamae Monteith, MD, chief of the Headache Division Program at the University of Miami Health.

And experiencing headaches in the morning can wreck the whole day. Common culprits behind these headaches are sleep disorders such as insomnia, snoring, and obstructive sleep apnea. A study in Poland found nearly a third of people with sleep apnea tend to wake up with headaches. A C-PAP machine to treat your sleep apnea can reduce or eliminate morning headaches.

“A C-PAP is the most commonly used and effective treatment for the most serious sleep apnea condition. It adds extra air pressure to the patients breathing passage to stabilize the breathing,” said Ryan Soose, MD, director of the Division of Sleep Medicine and Upper Airway Surgery at UPMC.

Teeth grinding or clenching during sleep is another reason for morning headaches.

The grinding can be caused by an irregularly shaped jaw, stress and anxiety, and sleep disruption. And caffeine can cause morning headaches. Those who are accustomed to drinking more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day-equivalent to two cups of coffee-may experience morning headaches due to their caffeine withdrawal overnight. However, once you have your coffee, the headache should subside.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation headaches and migraines are the sixth most disabling condition in the world.

More than four million people get chronic migraines. Medicine to treat these migraines is available but there is no cure.

However, there are clinical trials going on all over the country.

For example, there’s a clinical trial for migraines in Pearland, Texas that is studies the effectiveness of atogepant, a certain type of oral medication that blocks natural substances in the body that create migraines. They are using this medication to try to prevent migraines from happening. The qualifications they are looking for is at least a history of migraines, failed oral medication and treatments and a history of four to 14 migraines in a day. There’s also another in Sherman Oaks, California conducted by the California Neuroscience Research facility. They are testing the effectiveness of the study drug to help treat migraines. The length of the study is 36 weeks and up to 13 visits for the participant.

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