WAKING up to a pounding head is far from ideal.
On days like these you reach for the painkillers and hope and pray for a swift recovery.
But headaches can be sparked by a whole host of reasons, some of which can't be remedied with the trusty paracetamol.
They can crop up if we are dehydrated, which can sometimes be the result of consuming too much booze or even being out in the sun for too long.
Morning headaches are common and can occur for a variety of reasons, many of which aren't serious.
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The NHS says that some of the most common culprits include having a cold or flu – or even stress.
Often it's nothing to worry about, and is just a result of dehydration or follows an indulgent evening.
But persistent pain most mornings can be a potential indicator of an underlying problem.
It's best to know what it could mean and see if you need to talk to an expert about it.
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What are headache symptoms?
The main sign of a headache is a severe pain in your head, just or face.
However they can vary slightly depending on what type you have and the severity of the pain.
Migraine headaches are often described as pounding, throbbing pain and people who suffer with them often feel wiped out – with some having to take prescribed medication.
Cluster headaches feel more like an intense burning, sometimes round the eyes and can leave people to feel as though they are unable to open their peepers.
And a sinus headache, commonly caused by an infection or illness, is generally focused around the nose, eyes or forehead.
What types of headache are there?
Experts at Harvard Health say that there are are about 300 different types of headaches.
A morning headache usually begins between 4am and 9am and often tends to interrupt a sufferer’s sleep – with the pain waking you up.
The pain can fall into a number of categories making it either a cluster or tension headache, or even a migraine.
Other types of morning headache can include paroxysmal and medicinal overuse headaches.
Studies have found that most people who suffer morning headaches also suffer with sleep disorders.
Why do headaches happen?
Headaches happen for a number of reasons and here we take a look at the different causes, such as sleep disorders and shift work.
Research has found that headaches in the morning can also be caused by circadian rhythm disorders, which is when the body's natural "body clock" is off, such as due to shift work.
Because of the misalignment between your natural body clock, and when you're actually sleeping, you may get insufficient sleep which can trigger a headache when you wake up.
This, as well as allergens in the bedroom or sleeping in an exceptionally cold room, can all worsen sleep quality.
One encompasses sleep disorders, because the same part of the brain that controls sleep and mood also controls the pain you are waking up with.
Insomnia is one of the major reasons for a morning migraine.
The condition can prevent you from getting enough rest by keeping you up when you are trying to fall asleep, waking you up once you fall asleep, and causing restless sleep.
Other sleep issues such as narcolepsy, sleepwalking, sleeping with the wrong pillow, and sudden changes in sleep schedule – such as oversleeping or sleep loss – may be contributing to your headaches.
Many sufferers also report experiencing sleep movement disorders like sleep bruxism (where people unknowingly grind or clench their teeth while they sleep) and restless leg syndrome (where people experience an intensely uncomfortable "pins and needles" sensation in their lower limbs while sleeping which is accompanied by the intense urge to move them in order to find relief).
Morning headaches are also a key warning sign of the condition sleep apnoea, which many people do not realise they have.
The condition causes the airways to constrict during the night, temporarily stopping breathing.
This causes headaches and fatigue the next day, as well as snoring during the night.
When to see a doctor
Everyone experiences a headache from time to time. But, according to the Mayo Clinic, you should see a doctor if your headaches:
- Occur more often than usual
- Are more severe than usual
- Worsen or don't improve with appropriate use of over-the-counter drugs
- Keep you from working, sleeping or participating in normal activities
- Cause you distress, and you would like to find treatment options that enable you to control them better
You should seek emergency care if you ever have a headache alongside:
- Confusion or trouble understanding speech
- High fever, greater than 102 F to 104 F (39 C to 40 C)
- Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body
- Stiff neck
- Trouble seeing
- Trouble speaking
- Trouble walking
- Nausea or vomiting (if not clearly related to the flu or a hangover)
Mental and physical health problems
Both Depression and anxiety are also lead causes of chronic morning headaches, as they are intertwined with insomnia.
Additionally, medicines including aspirin, and withdrawal effects from pain medications, ergots and caffeine often produce chronic headaches and migraines.
Unsurprisingly, headaches are also a result of alcohol. Usually, a day of drinking water, having a painkiller and some more sleep will see it off.
Sometimes headaches may be the sign of a more serious health condition, but this is rare.
If you are suffering with regular headaches and are not sure of the cause, it's always worth checking with a doctor, especially if it comes with other symptoms.
One of the key features of a brain tumour is headaches, alongside vision or speech problems and changes in mental function such as difficulty with memory,
High blood pressure and stroke can also cause a headache.
How do I get rid of a headache?
- Cold pack: Placing a cold pack on your forehead can do wonders for a migraine. Ice cubes wrapped in a towel, a bag of frozen peas, or even a cold shower may lessen the pain. Keep the compress on your head for 15 minutes then take a break for 15 minutes.
- Heating pad: For tension headaches, place a heating pad on your neck or the back of your head. If you have a sinus headache, hold a warm cloth to the area that hurts. A warm shower might also do the trick.
- Ease pressure on your head: If your ponytail is too tight, it could cause a headache. These "external compression headaches" can also be brought on by wearing a hat, headband, or even swimming goggles that are too tight. Some people say this method works almost instantly.
- Dim the lights: Bright or flickering lights can trigger migraines. If you’re prone to them, cover your windows with blackout curtains during the day and try to wear sunglasses outdoors. You might also want to add anti-glare screens to your computer.
- Avoid chewing too much: Chewing gum hurts not just your jaw but can cause headaches too. And it’s not just gum, as the same is true for chewing your fingernails, lips, the inside or your cheeks, or handy objects like pens. Avoid crunchy and sticky foods if you are suffering and make sure you take small bites. If you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist about a mouth guard as this may curb early-morning headaches.
- Get some caffeine: No, this isn’t a mistake. Small amounts of caffeine can often relieve a headache and can even boost the effect of over the counter painkillers. However, too much caffeine can interrupt sleep and cause different types of headaches. Moderation is key.
- Practice yoga: Whether it is stretching, yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation, learning how to chill out when you’re in the middle of a headache can help with the pain.
- Limit alcohol: Alcohol can trigger migraines in about one-third of those who experience frequent headaches. It has also been shown to cause tension and cluster headaches in many people.
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