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What Are the Causes of Waking Up With a Headache?

author image Marcy Brinkley
Marcy Brinkley has been writing professionally since 2007. Her work has appeared in "Chicken Soup for the Soul," "Texas Health Law Reporter" and the "State Bar of Texas Health Law Section Report." Her degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing; a Master of Business Administration; and a Doctor of Jurisprudence.
What Are the Causes of Waking Up With a Headache?
A patient who wakes up with a headache may be suffering from a sinus headache. Photo Credit woman in bed image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com

Headaches can cause pain in various parts of the head, neck and scalp. Depending on the type of headache, the pain may range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, tense muscles, eye pain, flashing lights or other symptoms. Health care providers look at characteristics such as timing, frequency and location to diagnose the type of headache and develop a treatment plan. Since the body produces more adrenaline and less endorphins, its natural painkillers, during the early morning hours, certain types of headaches tend to occur at that time, according to the National Headache Foundation.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are caused by inflammation of the sinus passages behind the cheeks, nose and eyes. Characteristically, the pain is in the face and the front of the head and is worse when the patient bends forward and wakes up in the morning. Patients complain of sore throat, nasal discharge and postnasal drip as well, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Treating the underlying allergies or sinus infection relieves the symptoms.

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Medication Overuse Headaches

Taking medication for headaches more than twice a week can cause rebound or medication overuse headaches, according to the University of Wisconsin Hospital. Symptoms include waking up with a headache on both sides of the head, using more medication to treat the headaches but with less effect, worsening of headache pain and having headaches more than 15 times per month. The most common medications that cause rebound headaches are aspirin, acetaminophen, caffeine, narcotics, tramadol, migraine medications and decongestants. Stopping the medication usually relieves symptoms, although the process takes several weeks.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches feel like a vise around the neck or head. Some patients experience them occasionally, while others may have them daily, notes the National Headache Foundation. The episodic or occasional form appears to be triggered by stress, anxiety or anger. The chronic or daily form may be associated with depression and can occur in the early morning or late evening.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches have also been called alarm clock headaches because they often wake the patient up during the night or in the early morning, according to the National Headache Foundation. Cluster headaches start suddenly and last only a short time, but the patient may suffer one to four of them every day for weeks or months at a time. Between headache periods, the patient may be symptom-free for months or even years before the pain begins again. Oxygen, lifestyle changes and medications help to relieve and prevent headache attacks, according to the National Headache Foundation.

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