If you find yourself waking up with a migraine or headache every morning, this isn’t normal. In fact, it might be an indicator that you have sleep apnea. Migraines often occur in the morning, upon awakening, similar to sleep apnea headaches. So how can you tell whether you are suffering from migraines or sleep apnea headaches? Fortunately, there are a few signs that can help you rule out what type of headache you have. Once you determine the cause, you have a better chance of finding a treatment that provides long-lasting results.

Sleep Apnea Headaches

In addition to snoring and feeling tired during the day, sleep apnea can cause regular headaches. The reason a large portion of sleep apnea sufferers experiences frequent headaches is that carbon dioxide levels in the body increase with sleep apnea. Every time you go to sleep and stop breathing, the air becomes trapped in the lungs as carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide then enters the bloodstream, in addition to the lack of oxygen, which causes the blood vessels to dilate around the brain. The dilation is the cause of the throbbing feeling in the head.

Sleep apnea headaches typically occur in the morning, immediately upon awakening. They occur often, perhaps 50% of the time or more. It occurs on both sides of the head. Normally, it will resolve within a half-hour of awakening.

Sleep apnea can also cause two other types of headaches.

Cluster Headaches

A cluster headache is a headache that appears in cluster periods or cyclical patterns. It’s one of the most painful types of headaches and typically causes one to awaken in the middle of the night due to the severe pain. Pain typically occurs on one side of the head and around one eye. The headaches can last for weeks to months followed by remission periods that may last for years.

Hypnic Headaches

Another type of headache that sleep apnea can cause is hypnic headaches. Similar to cluster headaches, hypnic headaches will also cause one to awaken from sleep due to pain. Hypnic headaches have also been called “alarm clock headaches” because they will wake you up.  Hypnic headaches cause a dull throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. People may also experience light or sound sensitivity, nausea, and runny nose or eyes.

Other Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Another way to know whether you’re suffering from a sleep apnea headache or not is by looking at the other symptoms of sleep apnea that you might be suffering from. Sleep apnea causes a wide range of symptoms that you may experience during sleep and when awake.

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping, snorting, coughing during sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Waking up tired
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness upon waking
  • Mood swings
  • Low sex drive
  • Nightmares
  • Frequent nightly urination

If you experience any of these symptoms in addition to morning headaches, we strongly encourage you to seek a sleep apnea diagnosis by taking a sleep test.

Migraine Headaches in the Morning

Migraine headaches can also occur in the morning. A few distinguishing features between sleep apnea headaches and migraines are that migraines may come with nausea and sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells all while being confined to one side of the head.

Migraines can last from three hours to three days. You may experience weakness, low mood, memory problems, and other symptoms for a week or so before the headache, not typically seen with sleep apnea headaches, which often come with these symptoms every day, regardless of whether there’s a headache or not.

Are Migraines and Sleep Apnea Headaches Unrelated?

Although there is some research suggesting that sleep apnea and migraines are unrelated in the general population, there are many people who suffer from both conditions, and for people who have migraines and sleep apnea, sleep apnea treatment significantly reduces the number of migraine attacks, the length of attacks, and the severity of attacks. People who get their sleep apnea treated need less medicine, lose almost no time from work, and almost never need to skip recreational activities.

Reduce Frequent Headaches By Getting Sleep Apnea Treatment in Omaha Today

If you have migraines and suspect you might have sleep apnea, you should schedule a sleep test. To learn more about sleep tests and sleep apnea treatment options, please call for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.

Once our sleep dentists receive your sleep apnea diagnosis, they will help you explore the different sleep apnea treatment options available at our Omaha office. Using sleep apnea treatment consistently is the only way to relieve sleep apnea headaches. Once starting treatment, you will typically notice a decrease in headaches and severity within just three days.

If you’re ready to put morning headaches to an end, please book an appointment by calling (402) 493-4175 today.