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Published March 31, 2022

Waking up with a headache is a frustrating way to start the new day – but if you frequently wake up with headaches, you’re not alone. Headaches first thing in the morning can be relatively common, though there are many different potential causes.

There are over 150 types of headaches. Common headaches that are known to occur in the morning include tension headache, migraine, cluster headache and hypnic headache. If you wake up with a headache as a once-off, it’s likely related to stress or a poor night’s sleep. But if your headaches are recurrent or frequent, you may be wondering why do I wake up with a headache so often?

The good news is, you don’t need to suffer. There are some techniques you can use to reduce your chance of waking up with a headache, as well as treatment options. Have a look over some of the common causes of morning headaches, and how you can make changes to start waking up feeling refreshed.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding or teeth clenching is known as bruxism. If you experience a headache that is dull and near your temples, it’s possible teeth grinding is the cause.

Various factors can lead to sleep bruxism, including stress, sleep disorders, anxiety, caffeine consumption and issues related to your jaw. Teeth grinding can be closely related to our next point.

TMJ Disorders

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are what allow your jaw to move. Disorders related to your jaw can cause TMJ headaches, which occur as a result of the temporomandibular joints malfunctioning. Other symptoms of TMJ disorders include jaw pain, jaw stiffness and sleep bruxism.

Sometimes reducing offending movements will relieve your TMJ pain, including avoiding chewy foods, lessening stress and strengthening your jaw. Treatment will require a diagnosis from your doctor, dentist or jaw physiotherapist, who will then be able to offer you rehab to get on top of your TMJ disorder.


The simple act of sleeping too much can contribute to a morning headache. There’s a fine line between oversleeping and undersleeping – both of which can cause headaches upon waking.

You’re more likely to experience a headache from oversleeping if it’s a regular occurrence. The best way to avoid oversleeping is to work on restoring your natural sleep patterns and circadian rhythm by going to bed at the same time each night, and getting up around the same time most days. If you wake up from a full night’s sleep and still feel you need to sleep longer, and this occurs often, you may have an underlying medical condition.

Sleep Conditions

Sleep conditions that contribute to sleep disruption may be the cause of your early morning headaches. Sleep apnea and snoring can both be the source of headaches – sometimes snoring results as a symptom of sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes the sufferer to stop breathing at times throughout the night. Getting diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and seeking treatment will, in many cases, resolve your problem of early morning headaches. Treatment for sleep apnea can include the use of special equipment, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Another sleep problem that may cause morning headaches is insomnia. Sleep deprivation is a common cause of morning headaches, and an individual with insomnia fails to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to insufficient sleep and a resulting headache. Seeking treatment for your insomnia can assist in reducing the occurrence of these headaches.


Migraine symptoms include a severe headache that grows in intensity. Migraines are often the result of lack of sleep, hormone imbalances, poor diet, constant stress or tightness in the neck.

Migraines can often occur in the morning and are more common in people who have other sleep problems or disorders. People that suffer from migraine headaches are also more likely to experience sleep disruptions – and the disruption to sleep can trigger migraines.

Ensuring you don’t skip meals, avoiding foods that can trigger migraines for you, avoiding loud noises, reducing stress and seeing a physio can all help prevent a migraine attack.

Muscle Strain

Strained muscles in your neck can cause morning headaches. Consider your sleep position and your pillows to see if they are causing pain or strain to your neck. It may be a simple fix such as replacing your old pillows, but it can take some trial and error to find the right pillow for you.

Physiotherapists can help with neck strain and assist you in strengthening your neck and adjusting your posture, to avoid headaches related to muscle strain.

Treatment For Morning Headaches

If you’re concerned about the frequency or severity of your morning headaches, seek professional advice. There are a few lifestyle changes you can try that may help reduce your morning headaches:

  • Prioritise your sleep: Many of the causes of headaches come back to poor sleep or sleep disruption. Maintain healthy sleep patterns and pay attention to your sleep environment to see if you can make it more sleep-friendly.
  • Focus on your food: Maintain a healthy diet, avoid excessive caffeine, and ensure you are adequately hydrated. Keep a food diary to see if you can spot any trigger foods you should avoid.
  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise is beneficial for the whole body, and can reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches and migraines.
  • Minimise your stress: Do more of whatever makes you feel calm, such as yoga, journaling or meditation. Reducing stress in your everyday life can have a huge impact on reducing the frequency of your headaches.
  • See a physio: Headaches related to TMJ disorders, neck stiffness/strain or migraines can often be relieved or prevented by seeing a physiotherapist. Get in touch with one of our qualified physiotherapists to see how we can help with physio for headaches.

If you’re still asking, “why do I wake up with a headache?” try making some adjustments as listed above to see if they make a difference. While waking up with a headache can be relatively common, this doesn’t mean you need to just put up with it.

Get to the root cause of what’s causing your early morning headaches, make some changes to your lifestyle, and book in with one of our highly qualified local Como physiotherapists to see how we can help you wake up feeling refreshed and headache free.

Leslie Trigg

Director & Senior Physiotherapist at Integrity Physiotherapy Leslie Trigg, has over 15 years of experience in clinical practice. He has graduated with a degree in Human Biology (Anatomy and Physiology) from Curtin University in 2001 and later completed a Masters of Physiotherapy in 2007. He has tremendous experience in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic, neurosurgical and sports physiotherapy. In his spare time, he enjoys swimming, listening to music and spending time with his family.