Sleep Apnea Worsens All Types of Headaches

We 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.

Tension Headaches and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can make headaches worseTension 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 muscles of the airway 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 of which are associated with increased risk of tension headaches.

Migraine Headaches and Sleep Apnea

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

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.

Cluster Headaches and Sleep Apnea

Cluster headaches are relatively short but very intense headaches that are 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. The jaw clenching, oxygen shortage, or other effects of sleep apnea might serve to set off cluster headaches. The periodicity of cluster headaches might relate to people who have sleep apnea seasonally.

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.