With statistics already citing that we don’t get enough sleep in terms of quantity it’s even more frustrating when the quality of sleep is affected by headaches. You may find that headaches are waking you up at night or that you’re suffering from them just prior to sleeping.
One of the more obvious causes of nighttime headaches is alcohol consumption, so if you find this is a trigger, it is suggested that you limit consumption or avoid those specific alcoholic drinks that seem to trigger headaches more often.
Cluster Headaches and Sleep Apnea
Cluster headaches are intense piercing headaches that are typically of short duration; some people find that their cluster headaches occur specifically at night. Individuals who suffer from cluster headaches may also suffer from sleep apnea, a condition where breathing is temporarily interrupted while a person is sleeping. When a person has sleep apnea, a change in the airway occurs which then temporarily stops breathing. A person will gasp for breath and it is often an individual’s partner who alerts them to the problem.
To compound the problem, most people with sleep apnea are unaware of their condition, and so don’t ever seek treatment for the problem. Sleep apnea tends to intensify cluster headaches and may, in particular, prompt nighttime ones. What this means for you, is that if you are awakening at night with a cluster headache or find that you experience a cluster episode upon awakening, it may be worthwhile speaking to your doctor about the chance that you have sleep apnea.
Night Headaches and Hypoglycaemia
Hypoglycaemia is a term used to refer to blood sugar that is too low to sustain normal body functioning. If hypoglycaemia attacks while you are sleeping, you may find that you experience night sweats and a painful headache. A light balanced snack prior to bedtime, such as whole-wheat crackers with cheese, will help to keep your blood sugar more stable while you sleep and prevent nighttime occurrence of hypoglycaemia.
Stress and Tension Headaches
For some people, nighttime is the culmination of a stressful day spent on the go, without time taken out to relax and look after themselves. Tension headaches are a common type of headache and are often triggered by various stresses stemming from work, school or personal life. Exhaustion and worry can trigger a headache while you sleep and this lack of sleep then triggers more headaches, leading to a vicious cycle. If you’re able to find ways to manage stress, you may find your nighttime headaches improve and you can get the rest that your body needs.
If you’re finding that you experience migraines at night, it is possible that exposure to a trigger is occurring shortly before you sleep. Check your bedroom for chemicals that may be contributing, such as air fresheners, for example. It may be that a food you consume before bed is causing the migraine or perhaps even an additive contained within the food. Keep a headache diary and make a note of what foods and environments you are exposed to prior to sleeping and see if you can pinpoint and then reduce or eliminate the trigger.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
There are various things you can do to help prevent headaches and promote a good night’s sleep. Some options are:
* Be aware of what you eat before sleeping – although hunger and low blood sugar can prompt headaches, eating too much food, particularly if it’s a known migraine trigger, can also cause headaches, not to mention stomach problems.
* Stay hydrated throughout the day and avoid large amounts of water at night – you want to ensure that you prevent dehydration consistently, as dehydration can trigger headaches. Rather than loading up on water before bed, which may leave you needing the toilet in the middle of the night, try to maintain hydration evenly during the day.
* Ensure you get enough sleep – quality is obviously important but four hours of quality sleep, for example, is simply not enough for most people. Ironically, some people make time for everything but sleep and this can leave them with headaches. If you’re the type to use a planner, then pencil in your eight hours each night.
* Exercise – cardiovascular exercise right before bed may keep you awake but done earlier in the day, it can relieve stress and improve circulation, preventing painful nighttime headaches later on.
* Medications -depending on precisely what is causing your headaches, your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent nighttime headaches as well as treat those that do occur.
Nighttime headaches are very rarely due to serious conditions but if you do find yourself waking up with an extremely severe headache, you may need to see a doctor immediately on the remote possibility that you are suffering from a brain tumour.
Your sleep is important for maintaining clear and alert daily functioning so resolve to see your doctor to discuss your nighttime headaches and be sure to allot enough time each night for adequate rest. Ultimately, better headache-free sleep means a better day.