adult woman sitting up in bed unable to sleepWe have talked about the classic sleep apnea headache in which you wake with a headache, and it goes away over time. However, this is only one type of headache that can be related to sleep apnea. Because sleep apnea has a negative impact on your brain health, all major types of headaches can be influenced by sleep apnea.

Here’s how sleep apnea can contribute to your risk of certain types of headaches. It will help you understand when to talk to an Omaha sleep dentist about your headaches.

Tension Headaches and Sleep Apnea

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Perhaps 90% of all headaches are tension headaches. They occur when muscle tension constricts the skull or puts pressure on certain nerves in the head.

Sleep apnea can contribute to tension headaches in many ways. During an apneic attack, your jaw may clench as part of your body’s attempt to reopen the airway: this gives the airway muscles better support, but it puts tension on the head. Sleep apnea can also increase stress levels, cause mood disorders, and result in less sleep, all associated with an increased risk of tension headaches.

However, research has not established a strong connection between sleep apnea and tension headaches. While some research establishes that people are slightly more likely to have tension headaches if they have sleep apnea, other studies show no correlation. Tension headaches are so common and have so many potential causes that it creates a lot of noise in clinical studies. However, it is likely that people inclined toward tension headaches will likely experience them more frequently and with greater intensity if they also have sleep apnea. 

People with tension headaches might get significant relief by getting treatment from an Omaha sleep dentist. 

Migraine Headaches and Sleep Apnea

Migraine headaches are more complex and more painful. They’re not fully understood, but they seem to result from neural stimulation and changes in blood circulation within the brain.

Research doesn’t establish a causal connection between migraines and sleep apnea. However, migraine headaches are strongly impacted by sleep apnea, and sleep apnea treatment can relieve migraines. The same jaw tension that helps support the airway can put pressure on the trigeminal nerve or its branches, contributing to migraines.

In addition, irritability and stress from lack of sleep can contribute to migraine risk.

People with migraines are encouraged to get tested for sleep apnea. An Omaha sleep dentist can provide sleep apnea treatment, an important tool for reducing the frequency and severity of migraines. Since this reduces the dependence on migraine medications, which have side effects and unreliable efficacy, it can significantly improve the health and quality of life of migraineurs. 

Cluster Headaches and Sleep Apnea

Cluster headaches are relatively short but very intense headaches typically felt on one side of the head. They are named for their tendency to occur in clusters, often happening several times a day for a few days, then disappearing for months before recurring.

Because cluster headaches often occur at night, sleep apnea is considered a powerful trigger for this type of headache. Research shows that people with cluster headaches are more likely to have sleep apnea. However, no one has established a definitive causal link, though numerous possible connections exist. The jaw clenching, oxygen shortage, and other effects of sleep apnea might serve to set off cluster headaches. In particular, high blood pressure during sleep (or, rather, a lack of blood pressure drop) is linked to cluster headaches. People with sleep apnea often maintain high blood pressure at night because the brain signals a need for additional oxygen, encouraging the heart to pump harder.  

The periodicity of cluster headaches might relate to people who have sleep apnea seasonally, something we commonly see in Omaha.

Hypnic Headaches and Sleep Apnea

Like cluster headaches, hypnic headaches are specifically associated with sleep. However, these are relatively rare headaches. These headaches cause you to wake up, even though the pain may not be intense. They tend to occur at about the same time every night, so they’re sometimes called “alarm clock headaches.”

Hypnic headaches are about twice as common among elderly people.  Since sleep apnea frequency also increases with age, this encourages people to associate the two phenomena. 

Currently, people believe that there is no actual connection between sleep apnea and hypnic headaches. Instead, people need to consider the possibility that sleep apnea is causing waking and headaches rather than true hypnic headaches. If you experience headaches that seem to wake you at night, see an Omaha sleep dentist to talk about getting a sleep test for sleep apnea.

Get Help for Sleep Apnea Headaches in Omaha

If you have any type of headache disorder and you suffer from snoring or other signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center. Our office is in northwest Omaha, in North Park.