When you wake up in the morning with a pounding headache, two things typically run through your mind. One, why is this happening to me?! And two, how can I make this go away?! A possible third thought you may have is “Why did I drink so much last night?!?” If you’re a tried-and-true hypochondriac like me, your mind may also be abuzz with other more terrifying thoughts, such as “It’s probably a massive tumor!” or “What if there were brain-eating parasites in that gelato I had last night?!?”
While these scenarios are in fact absolutely terrifying, it’s more likely your morning headache is caused by something a little less sinister in nature. Here are some common reasons why you may be experiencing morning headaches and what you can do to stop the dull, achy, sharp, stabbing, annoying or frustrating pain that accompanies them.
At any point during your day, did you remember to drink a gigantic mocha latte but forget to drink eight glasses of water? Perhaps you routinely sweat buckets at your son’s afternoon football games but only ever drink half a bottle of lukewarm sports drink while you’re there? One of the first signs your body is dehydrated is waking up with a dull, pounding headache. If you haven’t been getting enough fluids throughout the day, the morning headaches you’re experiencing may be caused by dehydration.
So what’s the best way to resolve this situation? You guessed it. Drink more water. Try placing a giant bottle of water in the freezer overnight and then take it with you in the morning. As the ice melts, you’ll have a continuous supply of cool, refreshing water at your fingertips all day long. If you’re not a big fan of water, you can add a few drops of flavored water enhancer to make it more interesting (bearable?) to drink. (Tip: don’t fill the bottle all the way to the top before placing it in the freezer. It can expand during the freezing process and blow up. True story.)
Also called “bruxism,” teeth grinding is a common yet often overlooked cause of morning headaches. It is routinely accompanied by jaw clenching and is mostly associated with varying degrees of anxiety. If the day’s burdens are still with you when you go to bed at night, there’s a good chance your morning headaches are caused by jaw clenching and teeth grinding while you sleep.
Mouth guards are the most common form of treatment for alleviating nighttime teeth grinding and subsequent morning headaches. However, addressing possible issues with anxiety is suggested if you feel it may be a mitigating factor.
Low Blood Sugar
When you sleep, your blood sugar levels can drop low enough to cause something known as a “hypoglycemic headache.” In otherwise healthy adults, hypoglycemic headaches typically occur every so often rather than every morning. To help alleviate the occasional morning headache caused by low blood sugar, try having a glass of milk before bedtime. The combination of whey protein and milk sugars helps stabilize blood sugar levels and keeps them from plummeting during the night.
If you typically suffer from morning headaches, try some of the options listed above for quick, natural relief. While most causes of morning headaches are not life-threatening, certain diseases can cause headaches alongside other symptoms, such as fever, nausea, vomiting, vision changes or numbness. Seek medical attention as soon as you can if you are experiencing additional symptoms like these with your headaches.