Why You’re Waking Up with a Headache and How to Stop It

Written by Nectarsleep Editorial Team

Last updated on Sep 08, 2023

Better Sleep Blog
Why You’re Waking Up with a Headache and How to Stop It

In this article:

What Causes Headaches - Waking up with a headache is not a good feeling, especially when the throbbing pain is affecting your movement. Although headaches may happen from time to time, there are some cases when they are triggered by an underlying condition. So, what causes headaches?

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Causes Of Headaches​

Causes of Headaches

It is understandable that you want to deal with the pain that accompanies your headache as soon as possible, but in order to do so, you need to learn the different headache types first. Headaches are usually classified by their cause and these are:

Primary headaches

A primary headache is triggered by overactive problems that are centered around the sensitive areas of the head where pain receptors are located. This type of headache is not caused by any underlying condition. A good example of a primary headache includes a migraine, tension headache, cluster headache, and migraine with aura, just to name a few. These headaches may also be triggered by eating certain types of food, such as those that have nitrates or alcohol. This can lead to a lack of sleep.

Secondary headaches

Secondary headache can be triggered by various conditions such as sinus infection, post-concussion injury, whiplash injury, high blood pressure, intracranial hematoma, panic attacks, and meningitis. Other triggers can include ice cream headaches or brain freeze, spinal headaches, rebound headaches due to taking too much pain medication, and thunderclap headaches <1>.

Types of Headaches

Finding relief from the headaches that you feel in the morning starts with understanding what type of a headache you are having. From there, you will be able to figure out which treatment to use. Here’s what you need to know:

Tension headaches

As mentioned before, a tension headache is one type of primary headache that usually begins mildly then worsens in the middle of the day. A patient may feel that constant dull ache on both sides of their head, the pain throbbing downwards or from the neck, or you feel that there is tight band pressing against your head. Tension headaches can either be chronic-tension type headache, which means that it happens frequently, or episodic which can happen for just a few hours or may last for days.

Rebound headaches

Another type of headache that we can experience is the rebound headache which can occur when there is an excessive consumption of medication to alleviate the symptoms of headaches. Rebound headache can also cause neck pain, reduced sleep, restlessness, and nasal congestion just to name a few. The symptoms can vary from day to day but the pain is always present.


When you trigger migraines, you can experience nausea, blurred vision, sensory disturbance, and even lightheadedness. You will know that you are experiencing migraine when there is that pulsating and even throbbing pain that happens on just one side of your head. Migraine attacks are one of the most frequent types of primary headaches that we experience daily. There are some who experience severe headaches caused by migraine that their daily work is affected. Most migraine sufferers can be in pain for hours and, in the more severe cases, can last days before it disappears.

Cluster headaches

As the name suggests, cluster headaches can happen once a day or several times throughout the day. It can last for a few minutes or hours depending on how severe it is. In between these clusters, the patient will not experience any symptoms of headaches. When cluster headaches strike, they can be quite severe, located in just one side of the head, may happen around or in one of the eyes, and may have that sharp and stinging sensation.

Thunderclap headaches

Another example of secondary headache is the thunderclap headache which can be best described as the worst experience you can feel. In this case, you will experience a debilitating headache where you will not be able to move at all. This headache may be caused by aneurysms, reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome, or intracerebral hemorrhage. If you experience this type of headache, you will need to seek medical help as soon as possible <2>.

Treatments For Headaches

In order for headaches to be treated, you will need to know what causes them in the first place. Talking to a doctor is always recommended as this will help you get the right diagnosis for your condition. A headache specialist will ask you to describe your headaches, duration, whether it is a single type or multiple type of headache, or if you know what caused your headache in the first place. Your doctor may even recommend further tests to be conducted such as physical and neurological examinations to determine if there are any underlying conditions that are causing your headache. For those who are experiencing mild headaches, there are several treatments that can help alleviate the issue quickly. Here are a few that you should know about:

Over-the-counter medications

OTC medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen can be taken when you have mild headaches to begin with. This is usually taken by those who have tension-type headaches. Alternative therapies that are centered on reducing stress may also be beneficial to those who have chronic tension headaches. Among these treatments include biofeedback, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), acupuncture, and even massage therapy.

Hot or cold compress

For migraine sufferers, applying warm or cold compress to the head and neck has been shown to be effective in lessening the effects of the headache.


Another possible treatment that can be used by migraine sufferers or those who are dealing with another bout of a headache is rest. It would be a good idea to find a quiet place in your house, such as your bedroom, and rest up. You can also do this after taking over-the-counter medications to speed up the healing process.

Prescription medications

Patients who have severe migraine attacks may be prescribed medications which are designed to block the pain receptors. This requires a diagnosis from a specialist and will only be given when you have a prescription for medications such as triptans. Preventative medications can also be recommended, but this will require a doctor’s prescription <3>.

Natural Remedies For Headaches

Natural Remedies For Headaches

Aside from over-the-counter medications, it is also possible to help alleviate the pain that comes with your headache using natural remedies. Here are a few remedies that can help you deal with headaches naturally.

Drink more water

Dehydration may trigger headaches which is why you need to make it a point to drink water at regular intervals. A study shows that an individual who is suffering from a dehydration headache, can feel better within a few minutes to three hours after drinking adequate amounts of water.

Reduce alcohol intake

Another possible remedy that can help keep headaches at bay is to avoid or at least reduce your alcohol consumption. Hangovers can leave your head throbbing which can easily be prevented if you drink responsibly.

Get enough sleep

Sleep deprivation can be a culprit as to why you are suffering from headaches. With that being said, ensuring that you are getting enough sleep every day can help prevent migraines or tension headaches from happening in the first place. If you feel that a headache is coming, allow yourself to rest to help reduce the pain that is starting to happen.

Take magnesium

Low magnesium levels can also cause headaches to happen. This mineral plays a role in numerous functions of our body, including regulating blood sugar levels as well as nerve transmission. When you have a headache, eating foods that contain magnesium can aid in reducing the effects of a headache until it disappears altogether. A word of caution though, if you are taking magnesium supplements you need to be aware that it may cause side effects such as diarrhea, so start with a smaller dose. Definitely talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements.

Essential oils

Mild headaches can be treated safely with the help of some essential oils. These oils are basically concentrated aromatic compounds that are extracted from plants and flowers. They can be ingested, applied topically, or diffused to help clear up a headache. For headaches, massaging peppermint oil on your temples may help alleviate the pain. What Causes Headaches Resources:
<1> Mayo Clinic; Headache Causes, January 11, 2018.
<2> Medical News Today; What is causing this headache?, James McIntosh, November 13, 2017.
<3> Mayo Clinic; Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms, August 08, 2018.

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