Do you regularly wake with a headache?
Do you wake up with a headache most mornings? If so, then you should be evaluated for sleep apnea. Morning headaches are one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea—up to 75% of obstructive sleep apnea sufferers get them—and morning headache sufferers are up to 8 times more likely to have sleep apnea than the general population. Worse, some treatments may actually put sleep apnea sufferers at risk, so you should talk to your doctor about sleep apnea before beginning any headache treatment.
Sleep apnea treatment can improve or eliminate morning headaches. Stop taking medication that masks the pain—get rid of it once and for all! Please call (402) 493-4175 or click here to contact Dr. Roger Roubal, Omaha’s foremost sleep apnea dentist.
Sleep Apnea Is Associated with Many Types of Headaches
The “classic” sleep apnea headache has most or all of the following characteristics:
- You feel it when you wake up
- Occurs 15+ days a month
- Occurs on both sides of the head, feels like pressure in the head, and isn’t associated with:
- Light sensitivity
- Sound sensitivity
- Resolves within 30 minutes of waking
- Stops within 72 hours of sleep apnea treatment and doesn’t come back
However, there are many other types of headaches that increase in frequency or severity because of sleep apnea, including:
If you have been diagnosed with any of these types of headaches and experience them often, you should talk to a doctor about sleep apnea. Migraines have a very strong relationship with sleep apnea, increasing in severity and frequency. Sleep apnea is very common in people with cluster headache (80%), although we’re not sure whether there’s a cause-and-effect relationship or simply parallel processes. Tension headache may be related to lack of quality sleep, but they may also be triggered by the body’s attempts to restore breathing during apneic episodes. This causes the body to tense neck, jaw, and face muscles, which can lead to tension headaches. Hypnic headaches may in some cases be sleep apnea headaches that occur at night.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Improves Headaches
Many sleep disorders are associated with headaches, but sleep apnea is the one where treatment has been shown to be most effective. Studies have shown that, in addition to sleep apnea headaches, tension headaches, migraine headaches, and cluster headaches have all been shown to lessen in intensity and frequency after treatment for obstructive apnea.
Migraines in particular respond very well to sleep apnea treatment. Headache frequency may drop by over 90%. Headache duration may drop by over 85%. Headache intensity may drop by nearly 90%. Days lost at work may drop by 75%. And all this while medication use drops by over 95%! For migraine sufferers with sleep apnea, treatment can seem like a “magic bullet” that just takes away their migraine pain. It is far more effective than many targeted migraine treatments, and has fewer side effects, too!
Treatments to Avoid If You Suspect Sleep Apnea
People with sleep apnea are at an elevated risk for serious side effects when taking certain types of medication. Unfortunately, these are sometimes the medications that may be prescribed if a doctor suspects insomnia or another sleep disorder is related to your morning headaches. Sedative-hypnotic drugs (such as Ambien) may be dangerous when taken by people with sleep apnea.
Are You Looking for Headache Relief?
For many people with headaches, sleep apnea treatment can offer relief. Sleep apnea may not be the cause of your headaches, but it’s probably making them worse. If other treatments aren’t working for your headaches–or aren’t working well enough–sleep apnea treatment may be the secret to finally getting relief.