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Can Sleep Apnea Cause Headaches During The Day

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Location Of Sleep Apnea Headache

7 Signs Of Sleep Apnea | Match Health

Different triggers cause different headache types, and thats why we may experience day long pain, episodical pain or pain in different parts of the head. Here are three common headache types:

  • Tension. Tension sleep apnea headache location is usually around your forehead, the back of the head and neck. It may be caused by muscle tension during low quality sleep. Can sleep apnea cause headaches and neck pain? Yes. 
  • Migraines. These are associated with the pain on one side of the head and throbbing or pulsing feelings. But often sleep apnea and migraine headaches are felt on both sides.
  • Cluster. Cluster headaches and sleep apnea accompanied by intense pain on one side of the head are often located behind or around the eye. It may last from between 30 minutes to 2 hours several times per week.

Headaches In The Morning

You can experience headaches all throughout the day, but the morning is the most common time for people with sleep apnea. Once again, this comes down to your body and mind not getting the right amount of rest/oxygen. Your brain uses the night to work out all the stress and chaos from the day. If you arent getting enough rest, that stress will continue into the morning and it will feel like a weight resting against your temple. With proper treatment, you can reduce the severity and frequency of these headaches.

What Causes Morning Headaches

As you transition from sleep to wakefulness, parts of your brain start to wake up too. Your brain becomes more responsive to changes in your body position, touch, and sound. During this period of heightened sensitivity, you may be more susceptible to pain.

Additionally, the hypothalamus in the brain is involved in both sleep and pain processes. The hypothalamus regulates your natural circadian rhythms and sleep cycles and modulates sensation and pain. Disturbances in the hypothalamus during sleep affect your ability to tolerate pain. As a result, while you may not have felt pain as you slept, you may feel it in the morning.

Sleep disorders commonly trigger morning head pain, but there are numerous possible causes for waking up with a headache.

Treating Sleep Disorders And Cluster Headaches

Improved sleep quality can reduce the frequency and severity of cluster headache attacks. To achieve better sleep, it is often necessary to address the underlying issues that prevent a patient from getting adequate rest.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated using CPAP and EPAP devices.

Theravent is a small EPAP device placed over the nostrils before bed. The device exerts a gentle pressure to keep the airways open and allow for proper breathing. This is a natural way to reduce or eliminate snoring.

CPAP devices are often prescribed for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. These devices continually exert air pressure in the throat to keep the airways open and allow for normal breathing.

Unfortunately, CPAP devices require a machine and a mask, making them uncomfortable and inconvenient. CPAP devices can also produce unpleasant side effects that are not experienced with EPAP devices.

Although both CPAP and EPAP devices help patients with sleep apnea breathe better during sleep, some patients prefer the ease and simplicity of EPAP devices like Theravent.

Even patients who dont have sleep apnea might experience sleep issues due to excessive snoring. Snoring can prevent both you and your bedmate from getting a refreshing, full night of rest. Interrupted sleep due to snoring can lead to a host of unpleasant side effects including daytime sleepiness, irritability, difficulty concentrating during the day, and headaches, including excruciating cluster headaches.

What Are Symptoms That Could Suggest That I Have Sleep Apnea

Learn The Differences Between Sleep Apnea And Headache
  • Habitual snoring
  • Bariatric surgery for weight loss
  • Nocturnal oxygen

The CPAP mask is not always easy to tolerate. The pressure can even trigger migraines. Discuss other option with a Sleep Medicine specialist. 

The coverage of testing and treatments varies a lot. Considering the health consequences of untreated sleep apnea, it would be an advantage to our society to see this covered by public insurance. 

In summary, if your migraines have worsened, if you snore, if you have morning headachesit might be a good idea to discuss sleep apnea testing with your physician. 


1. Buse DC, Rains JC, Pavlovic JM, Fanning KM, Reed ML, Manack Adams A, et al. Sleep Disorders Among People With Migraine: Results From the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes Study. Headache. 2019;59:32-45.

2. Ferini-Strambi L, Galbiati A, Combi R. Sleep disorder-related headaches. Neurol Sci. 2019;40:107-13.

3. Rains JC. Sleep and Migraine: Assessment and Treatment of Comorbid Sleep Disorders. Headache. 2018;58:1074-91.


Classification Of A Sleep Apnea Headache

What counts as an untreated sleep apnea headache?

The International Classification of Headache Disorders  states that sleep apnea headaches are recurrent headaches experienced by a person diagnosed with sleep apnea.

It might be difficult for someone to determine if theyre experiencing headaches due to something like stress or illness, rather than having a sleep apnea headache. Again, youll need to talk with your doctor to pinpoint the cause of your pain.

How Can Sleep Apnea Cause Headaches

When you suffer from sleep apnea, you stop breathing periodically throughout the night. This usually happens because tissues in the throat partially or completely obstruct your airway.

As a result of this closure, air can become trapped in the lungs. This de-oxygenated air is packed with toxic carbon dioxide which can build up in the bloodstream and cause vessels in your brain to dilate.

The subsequent dilation results in a painful headache that can feel very similar to a normal migraine. Its worth noting that this dilation also puts you at risk for serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

Looking For Sleep Apnea Treatment In Jacksonville Fl

If youre dealing with sleep-related issues, Jacksonville Sleep Center is here to help. We are the only sleep facility in North Florida with a board-certified sleep physician dedicated to helping patients improve their quality of life by getting better sleep.

Thankfully, we support virtual appointments, so you can schedule a consultation whenever its most convenient for you. Book a call with us today at 904-854-6899!

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Morning Headaches

Sleep Apnea Could be Hurting Your Heart

Morning headaches usually occur in the early hours of the morning, generally sometime between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. or so depending on the individual. Headaches can last anywhere from thirty minutes to four hours.

Can morning headaches be a sign that you have untreated sleep apnea? They can be!

If youre experiencing morning headaches, you should look more into untreated sleep apnea.

What Are My Treatment Options For Sleep Apnea

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the first thing to do is to see your doctor. Leading up to your appointment, keep a record of your sleep, fatigue levels, and any other symptoms youâre having.

Your doctor might suggest a sleep study, which often requires an overnight stay at a sleep center. This test helps doctors understand the severity of your disorder and create a treatment plan. In addition, there are at home sleep tests that might be an option for you.

In many cases, a continuous positive airway pressure device is prescribed to treat symptoms. This tends to be incredibly effective. But there are also a few lifestyle changes that the National Sleep Foundation says could help with symptoms, including:

  • Losing weight. According to the NSF, this is the most important action you can take. But we say this with a caveat, because we know losing weight isnât an overnight solution that itâs easy to just do.
  • Avoiding alcohol.Drinking alcohol can cause interrupted sleep and makes the upper airway breathing muscles relax.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking worsens swelling in the upper airway, which makes apnea and snoring much worse.

We get how unfair all of this is. Itâs bad enough that you have to manage those incredibly painful migraine headaches. Itâs even worse when theyâre affecting your sleepâand infuriating that there isnât a clear explanation for why your migraines are making it so hard to get some decent rest.

Headache Treatment In Sarnia

At Dr. Karen Davis Dentistry, we screen each patient for oral signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. If youre a frequent migraine headache sufferer, Dr. Davis will help you identify the least-invasive therapy to treat your symptoms and work hand in hand with your medical doctor for the best results. For oral sleep apnea and headache relief, call our practice today! 

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Neck Pain

Neck pain is also closely related to headaches. So, sleep apnea can also be associated with neck pain problems. Patients with sleep apnea also have reported complaints of neck pain. This is described as a pinched nerve neck pain. Sleep apnea normally triggers muscle pains, and so, the neck being directly close to the head is normally affected too. Sleep apnea mainly causes difficulty in sleeping, so the tendency is to change your sleeping position. Thus, it causes the pinched nerve neck.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Cluster Headaches

Diagnosing & Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder in adults. Patients with sleep apnea intermittently stop breathing while asleep. The throat muscles block the passage of air in and out of the lungs. One of the most obvious signs of sleep apnea is heavy snoring.

Patients with sleep apnea sometimes wake up in the night choking or gasping for air. Their snoring is frequently loud enough that it interrupts both their sleep and the sleep of their partners. Their sleep is so disrupted they often wake up feeling irritable, tired, and sore. They might be so tired during the day they have trouble staying awake; falling asleep at the wheel is a potential danger.

Sleep apnea can cause cluster headache attacks or make existing attacks worse.

Bruxism Or Teeth Grinding

Sleep bruxism, or teeth grinding or clenching during sleep, can make you wake up with a headache. This forceful and excessive movement also leads to tooth wear, muscle pain, and gum damage. Causes of sleep bruxism include having an irregularly shaped jaw, stress and anxiety, sleep disruption, alcohol use, and coffee.

A dentist can determine if you have sleep bruxism. Treatment often involves wearing a mouthguard at night. Your dentist may also prescribe drugs for pain management and recommend cognitive behavioral therapy to manage stress and anxiety.

Untreated Sleep Apnea And Headaches

Headaches, especially those that happen in the morning right after you wake up, could be a sign of a sleep disorder like sleep apnea.

Is a morning headache the same as a sleep apnea headache? It depends.

recent study looked into the connection between morning headaches and Obstructive Sleep Apnea . This study found that 20.4% of those with OSA reporting morning headaches did indeed fulfill requirements for the ICHD-2 and ICHD-3 beta criteria for having a sleep apnea headache.

In short, if youre regularly experiencing unexplained headaches in the morning, it could indeed be a headache from untreated sleep apnea.

Speak to your doctor. Only a professional diagnosis can determine if youre experiencing headaches due to sleep apnea.

Not Enough Or Too Much Sleep

Many of us arent prioritizing sleep. We sacrifice sleep for other things: work, play, or even social media. But getting enough sleep is critical to brain health, and if youre not getting enough, you may experience serious headaches.

You might experience:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Lack of interest

Note that sometimes sleep apnea is misdiagnosed as depression, and that morning headaches are common to both conditions.

What Causes Sleep Apnea

What Causes Morning Headaches?

Sleep apnea can have many different possible causes. In adults, the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is excess weight and obesity, which is associated with soft tissue of the mouth and throat.

When you sleep, your throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed and can fall to the back of the mouth. This soft tissue can block your airway.

What Do These Findings Tell Us

In short, your sleep apnea and migraines could be related.  These findings strongly suggest that lateral and prone sleep positions , necessitated by even mild sleep apnea or increased upper airway resistance during sleep, are associated with pinched nerves in the neck, which then can be a major predisposing factor for headache, intractable headache, and the migraine cascade.

Sleep Apnea Headache And Migraine What You Need To Know

This post may contain affiliate links. Migraine Strong, as an Amazon Affiliate, makes a small percentage from qualified sales made through affiliate links at no cost to you.

This is an evidence-based article from the authors of Migraine Strong. It includes scientific evidence from studies and peer-reviewed research papers. References to the evidence may be reviewed by clicking the hyperlinked words and/or numbers in parenthesis within the article.

A few months ago, I had to admit to myself that I probably have sleep apnea headache. I cringe each time I think about it as I really dont want to do a sleep study and worst of all, I dont want to deal with a CPAP machine. I know, I know. There are other options, but all I can envision is the un-sexiness of it all. So, thank you for listening to my pathetic confession. Yes, Im a writer for Migraine Strong and Ive always known the answer to the question, can sleep apnea cause headaches and migraine. I have responded to hundreds of social media threads about the topic and suggested that people get tested. Oh, the hypocrisy of it all!

Lets take a good look at this topic to help you understand more about the relationship between sleep apnea and migraine headaches and what you can do about it.

Are Migraines And Sleep Apnea Related

According to the American Migraine Foundation, people living with this condition are between two to eight times more likely to experience sleep disorders. That answers our question, right? Well, not exactly.

Although there is a strong connection between obstructive sleep apnea and morning headaches, the morning headache symptoms are different than a chronic migraine headache.

A sleep apnea-induced headache will often improve or subside on its own, while a migraine could last for up to 72 hours without the right treatment.

In addition, apnea-induced headaches usually ache while migraine headaches throb.

Is There A Link Between Migraine And Sleep Apnea

How To Get Rid Of Sleep Apnea Headaches

People with chronic migraine are more at risk for sleep apnea. Sleep disorders increase the risk of chronic headaches. There are many histories of migraine that deteriorated in the setting of sleep apnea improving with CPAP treatment. We do not know yet exactly how many people with chronic migraine have sleep apnea. 

Is Migraine And Sleep Apnea Linked

According to the Mayo Clinic, having obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of high blood pressure . Obstructive sleep apnea might also increase your risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke and abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation.

It doesn’t mention an increase in migraine attacks, or show any association with migraine. A study done in 2011 that looked at Migraine and sleep apnea in the general population. It’s conclusion showed no clear relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and migraine headaches, with and without aura in the general population.

However, Dawn Buse, PhD said of the same study:

These results suggest that assessing sleep quality and screening for sleep apnea is valuable for patients with migraine, especially among men and people with chronic migraine… People with migraine who screen positive for sleep apnea should be referred for additional evaluation and treatment.

~ Dawn C. Buse, PhD

If you get diagnosed with both sleep apnea and migraine headaches, be prepared to be referred to more specialists for additional evaluation and treatment.

If you have chronic migraines that are destroying your life and you are exhausted most days, this is a good area to investigate. Even if you don’t think you have sleep problems… you might.

How To Get Rid Of Sleep Apnea Headaches

In many cases, getting rid of sleep apnea headache starts with understanding the cause of your pain. If you suffer from poorly managed sleep apnea, the first step is to get a proper diagnosis, either with a sleep study or a high-quality at-home sleep apnea test.

Once you get a diagnosis and begin treatment, you may find your sleep apnea headaches disappear with a few deep breaths or a more structured breathing practice in the morning. This clears the lungs of residual carbon dioxide that may have pooled in them overnight. Couple these breaths with a big glass of water for healthy hydration to keep head pain at bay.

If you manage your sleep apnea with a CPAP machine and wake with frequent headaches, check to see that the pressure is properly set on your machine. It may take some adjusting to find the right balance.

For those who grind their teeth at night, or if a CPAP machine is not a good treatment option, a sleep apnea dental device may help. This device positions the jaw slightly open, with the lower jaw forward to keep your airway open and clear all night long. Many people find it easier to use a sleep apnea oral appliance, so compliance can be higher than with a CPAP machine.

AZ Dentist is a sleep apnea dentist with convenient locations across the Phoenix area. If you need help managing your sleep apnea to prevent sleep apnea headaches, get in touch today! Were here to help.

Waking Up With Migraine May Signal Sleep Apnea

Medical Review:David Watson, MD

Waking up with a Migraine attack is a common experience and its something we should discuss with our doctors. Sleep disruptions can be a potent Migraine trigger. Consistently waking up with Migraine may be our first clue that a sleep disorder is complicating our Migraine treatment, making it more difficult to get good results. In many cases, as sleep study can identify or rule out sleep disorders. Confirming a diagnosis and starting treatment for these problems can improve the effectiveness of our Migraine treatment.

Breathing Problems And Snoring

Cannabis Medications to Treat Sleep Apnea

If you snore, this could be an indicator of breathing problems. If youre not breathing properly, this not only interferes with your sleep but can also increase the risk of headaches once you wake up.

Snoring can also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which can include these symptoms:

  • pauses in breathing during sleep
  • nighttime awakening
  • daytime sleepiness

Can I Test Myself For Sleep Apnea

No. The closest thing is to do a home sleep apnea test normally set up by a nurse or specialist. It is a very simplified breathing monitor that tracks your breathing, oxygen levels, and breathing effort while you wear it.

Home sleep tests do not fully capture what is monitored, an overnight sleep study in clinic gives you a more thorough assessment of sleep issues.

A home sleep test was enough to determine that I have sleep apnea, and it was cheaper and easier than an overnight stay in unfamiliar settings.

What Does A Sleep Apnea Headache Feel Like

A sleep apnea headache is generally felt on both sides of the head and occurs fairly predictably every morning. These headaches do not differ from a headache you might get from other causes, but the hallmark is that those with sleep apnea might get them every morning.

On the other hand, migraines may occur more frequently for people with sleep apnea, but they are not as regular. Migraine pain is very specific and usually occurs on just one side of the head. Additionally, migraine headaches generally come with other symptoms, like visual complications, nausea, and dizziness.

Both sleep apnea headache and migraine come with pain that can range from mild to severe.

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Dizziness And Lightheadedness

Unexplained dizziness is a bothersome symptom for many. It can make it challenging to work, complete household chores, and pursue many favorite hobbies. There are many causes for dizziness, so if it is an ongoing concern, it should be discussed with a doctor. However, one common root cause of dizziness is sleep apnea.

When you are dizzy, you feel lightheaded and disoriented. The lightheadedness is the part of it where it feels like you are going to faint. 

Most commonly, those who have sleep apnea and dizziness will feel it most severely first thing in the morning. You may be suffering from sleep apnea dizziness if you wake up disoriented and have to take a few extra moments to get your bearings before you feel steady on your feet and safe to walk. This is usually caused because the brain has been deprived of oxygen during the night and not functioning at 100 percent first thing in the morning, so trying to switch from the laying down position to an upright and moving position becomes troublesome.

At its most serious levels, this absence of oxygen is called hypoxemia, which can regress into hypoxia if left untreated long enough. When your body goes into hypoxia, vital organs begin shutting down due to a lack of oxygen. In aviation accidents involving cabin depressurization, for instance, hypoxia is frequently the cause of death. The absence of sufficient oxygen for breathing at high altitudes means vital organs quickly fail.

What Are The Different Types Of Headaches

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

A headache can cause dull, sharp, or throbbing pain. You may experience the headache briefly, for an hour or less, or for a prolonged period up to a few days.

Types of headaches sometimes associated with morning headaches include:

Insomnia affects your sleep patterns and causes sleep deprivation. This condition is a prevalent cause of morning headaches. Insomnia can prevent you from getting enough sleep by:

  • keeping you up when you are trying to fall asleep
  • awakening you during your sleep
  • causing restless sleep

The lack of sleep caused by insomnia can cause migraine headaches as well.

Insomnia can be treated in a variety of ways and should be discussed with your doctor. Your doctor may ask you to track your sleep patterns to help diagnose the condition. Treating insomnia can include taking medications, getting therapy, or trying a combination of medications and therapy. Reducing insomnia should result in more sleep and relieve morning headaches.

Providing Treatment For Sleep Apnea

Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS

Sleep-related headaches are a throbbing pain, which can include nausea and vomiting. As a dentist, you can help provide relief through the availability of an oral appliance. Many times, bite guards or oral appliances can help relieve aching jaw muscles caused by bruxism or misaligned jaws that might be leading to sleep apnea. Morning headaches associated with OSA often respond well to oral appliance therapy.

Through treatment of sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy, your patients can experience improved sleep while also resolving any pain they might be experiencing from headaches. In addition to oral appliance therapy, it is also important for patients to maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Its time for us to take charge of our patients health by providing proper treatment of sleep apnea and headaches. Listen to your patientsif you hear them mention headaches, ask more questions. The more we know, the better our chances of finding the cause and providing proper treatment.

Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS, is the owner of Atlantas Craniofacial Pain and Dental Sleep Center of Georgia.


What Are My Treatment Options For Migraine

There are two main ways to treat your migraine headaches.

There are also a few ways that you can treat your migraines in addition to medication that involve avoiding triggers . We covered them extensively in a previous article about home remedies, but hereâs a list for you to refer to whenever you need it:

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