What Is a Sleep Apnea Headache?

The following traits characterize a sleep apnea headache:

  • Present when you wake up
  • It is very frequent (occurring more than half of the time)
  • You experience pressure on both sides of the head, but no symptoms common with migraines, such as nausea and light or sound sensitivity
  • Headache typically resolves within half an hour of waking

Since headaches can be a very nonspecific symptom, we may not be 100% sure that yours are caused by sleep apnea until after we begin treatment. Most related headaches resolve after treatment begins.

Typical sleep apnea headaches come in three forms: cluster headaches, hypnic headaches, and OSA headaches. Sleep apnea cluster headaches are frequent attacks that can last weeks to months. These attacks are called cluster periods and can be debilitating. Sleep apnea hypnic headaches present moderate throbbing that arouses you from sleep. Lastly, general obstructive sleep apnea headaches are caused by the widening of the blood vessels in your head due to the lack of oxygen. These three types of headaches are often resolved with sleep apnea treatment if your sleep test indicates that you have sleep apnea.

Other types of headaches aren’t caused by sleep apnea either at all or not directly. Sinus headaches, primary headaches, and rebound headaches (medication overuse headaches) are forms of head pain that are not caused by sleep apnea but can still be very bothersome. A migraine headache isn’t always a direct result of your sleep apnea. Sometimes, your migraine is caused by a migraine trigger, like stress from a morning headache. In this case, your migraine is not a direct result of sleep apnea but can be managed by treating and curing sleep apnea symptoms that may be migraine triggers.

If you aren’t sure what type of headache you have, that’s okay. It can be hard to distinguish between the different types of headaches. Make an appointment with Dr. Sheets, and she can help you find relief from your head pain with headache treatment.

Headache & Migraine Treatment

Young blonde woman having migraine headaches may need help to relieve the pain

Treatment can completely resolve morning headaches, and it may also improve other types too. For example, a recent study looked at the effect of sleep apnea treatment on migraines. While subjects saw their frequency of migraines drop by 95%. Their intensity of migraines dropped about 90%, their lost time from work decreased by 75%, and they stopped having days when they couldn’t enjoy leisure activities.

The only problem with the study was that it relied only on CPAP for treating sleep apnea. This meant that less than half of the participants were still using the treatment by the end of the study. Though, CAPAP is not your only sleep apnea treatment option. Talk to Dr. Sheets about sleep apnea treatment options to find one that works best for you.

Morning Headaches, Sleep Apnea, and Other Sleep Disorders

Not all researchers agree that morning headaches are specific to sleep apnea. They may also impact people with insomnia and other types of sleep or headache disorders. Although they may serve as a warning, the only way to know if sleep apnea is responsible is with a sleep test that a physician analyzes.

If you experience morning headaches and migraines and are looking for convenient and effective headache treatment, please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha or give us a call at (402) 493-4175.