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Headache from Lack of Sleep – The Ultimate Guide

Headache from Lack of Sleep

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Story At-A-Glance
  • Sleep is an important aspect of our lives that ensures optimal healthy living.
  • Inadequate sleep in either quality, quantity, or both brings about several health implications.
  • Lack of sleep headache is associated with medical conditions like migraine, sleep apnea, and tension headaches. Their relationship is bidirectional. Either one can precede or trigger the other.
  • Lack of sleep headache can be treated with medications, as well as lifestyle modifications like good sleep hygiene practices.
  • Receiving adequate sleep helps improve overall health and well-being. It may improve cognitive function, emotional stability, and overall quality of life.
  • Getting too much sleep is linked with medical conditions like metabolic disorders and depression.

Introduction

Are you one of those people who wake up every morning with a banging headache? We are not just talking about the type of headache that you would get after a night of hangover, but headaches that are so routine, at times, they are powerful enough to wake you up while you are sound asleep. 

Sleep is an integral part of our lives that we spend a considerable amount of our lives sleeping. Did you know that each one of us spends at least one-third of our lives sleeping? Shocking right! 

We are not spending that much amount of our lives all for nothing. Adequate sleep is necessary to maintain a very healthy lifestyle. Sleep brings about numerous health benefits. It helps us recharge and refresh so that we are ready to keep up with our daily challenges. 

If you are getting lack of sleep headache symptoms frequently, that means you are not doing something right with sleeping, no matter how simple it can be. But, what on earth could you be doing all wrong? You must be wondering. 

Here we are trying to break down everything so that we can get to the root of lack of sleep headache and find appropriate remedies.

Headaches and Sleep – How Are they Related?

Headaches and Sleep
We all can relate to getting a headache after a night of not sleeping properly. But have you ever thought about how and why it might be occurring? How exactly are the lack of sleep and headaches related? What connection exists between them?

According to scientists, sleep deprivation and headaches have a close bond than one would imagine. The connection between headaches and lack of sleep is bidirectional. Sleep deprivation can either precede or trigger a lack of sleep headache.

It seems that the brain structures[1] responsible for the occurrence of headaches and sleep deprivation are almost identical. Not to mention both have very similar pathogenesis.

study shows that the lack of sleep promotes sustained levels of proteins in the body, leading to pain. Not only that but scientific data[2] also demonstrates how sleep deprivation and migraine, a severe type of headache triggered by several external factors, are inter-connected.

Studies[3] show that inadequate sleep during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage can give rise to the most painful kinds of headaches. It is during the REM stage that our brain repairs and stores important memories. Therefore, any kind of sleep deprivation can impact your overall mental performance.

How to Recognize Lack of Sleep Headache Signs?

The lack of sleep headache signs may vary depending on the underlying cause of deprivation. The term “sleep disturbances” is an umbrella term that represents several conditions leading to lack of sleep. These may include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, muscle strain, teeth grinding, and sometimes even disorders that may affect the quality of sleep like anxiety and depression.

People who experience a lack of sleep headache due to insomnia often find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up early in the morning. Insomnia causes tension-type of headaches and is closely associated with migraine as well. A tension-type headache feels like a band is squeezing the head. On the other hand, early morning headache due to migraine is characterized by an intense, lateral, and throbbing type of headache with pulsations in the head.

Sleep apnea symptoms

Sleep apnea is another common cause that may lead to lack of sleep headache signs. While we sleep, the muscles that support soft tissues in the tongue, soft palate, and throat tend to relax. As a result, the airway in the neck narrows, causing temporary pauses in the breathing pattern. These temporary pauses in breathing, in turn, may cause disruptions in sleeping whether you are fully aware of the interruptions or not. In the morning, you may feel as if you haven’t slept adequately at all. 

Similarly, another medical condition called bruxism that involves sleep-related teeth grinding due to overactivity of jaw muscles may give rise to early morning headaches. Sometimes, simple muscle strains due to bad posture while sleeping may also result in a lack of sleep headache. 

So, it’s quite obvious that if you pay enough attention, you will be able to identify very subtle lack of sleep headache signs that may indicate different underlying pathologies. 

What Are the Lack of Sleep Headache Symptoms?

Are you someone who suffers from an early morning headache but can’t pinpoint exactly why it happens? Sometimes, the symptoms of lack of sleep headache can be very subtle and you might find it a bit difficult to link them to not having adequate sleep. 

Some of the most common lack of sleep headache symptoms include fatigue, irritability, difficulty in paying attention, difficulty in remembering things, mood changes, and reduced sex drive.

Some individuals develop emotional instability and become over-reactive. A study shows that with a lack of adequate sleep, people tend to become more impulsive and irritable. Further, your decision-making ability may also get impaired and daily functioning and performance at work may significantly deteriorate.

It is crucial to identify the lack of headache symptoms early so that they do not progress to a stage that your life gets seriously affected due to not having enough quality sleep.

How to Treat Someone with A Lack of Sleep Headache

Treat Someone with A Lack of Sleep
There are several ways of treating lack of sleep headache, including a wide array of pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods. Both medications and behavioral changes are necessary to obtain satisfactory results in the symptoms. 

The earlier you seek medical advice, the easier it gets to reduce the severity and duration of the pain associated with lack of sleep headache.

When looking at medications available for lack of sleep headache treatment, they seem to differ depending on the underlying etiology of the signs and symptoms. For example, when treating tension headaches associated with lack of sleep, the following medications are commonly utilized:

  • Pain medications to provide relief (Ibuprofen, paracetamol, aspirin etc.)
  • Sedatives to help fall asleep well
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (Amitriptyline)
  • Other antidepressants – Venlafaxine, Protriptyline
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Muscle relaxants

Since migraine is more severe than tension-type headaches, its treatment process takes a rather aggressive approach. Other than the basic medications, a couple of extra ones are used in treating migraines.

  • Triptans – block pain pathways in the brain (Treximet)
  • Ergotamine/Ergots – relieve long-lasting migraine symptoms. Provide pain relief by constricting blood vessels (Dihydroergotamine)
  • Opioid medications (Codeine)
  • Pain medications to provide relief (Ibuprofen, paracetamol, aspirin)
  • Antiemetics – prevent nausea and vomiting (metoclopramide, chlorpromazine, and prochlorperazine)
  • Glucocorticoids – provide pain relief and reduce inflammation (prednisolone, dexamethasone)

Natural Remedies to Overcome Headache from Lack of Sleep

To alleviate lack of sleep headache symptoms, mere medications are not enough. You will be able to witness drastic improvements in your condition with just a couple of simple lifestyle changes.

You may go through a couple of lack of sleep headache natural remedies that are simple yet quite effective. They include several lifestyle modifications that may contribute to improving sleep hygiene.

Improving sleep hygiene

  • Make a routine or schedule for sleeping. Try to make a habit out of going to sleep at the same time every day.
  • Avoid using stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.
  • Try resting in a dark, quiet room without any disturbances.
  • Try relaxation techniques like meditation or listening to calming music before bedtime.
  • Decrease screen time before bedtime.
  • Refrain from engaging in long naps during the day
  • Try maintaining a sleep diary that records your daily routine and notes down any activities that might cause hindrances to your sleeping.
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid engaging in strenuous exercises a few hours before bedtime.
  • Use pillows or sleeping positions that do not cause muscle pains and are comfortable for you.

How Much Sleep Should You Get?

There’s no hard and fast rule as to how many hours a person should sleep every day. Often, time may vary depending on individual circumstances; age, gender, and medical conditions. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), together with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, has put forward a set of recommended hours for sleeping depending on different age groups.

According to the recommendations, adults should sleep for at least 7 hours or more every night for optimal health.

The following are the recommended durations of sleeping for teenagers, children, and infants.

  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age – 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours
  • Children 6 to 12 years of age – 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours
  • Children 3 to 5 years of age – 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (naps included)
  • Children 1 to 2 years of age – 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (naps included)
  • Infants 4 months to 12 months – 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (naps included)

They have not included recommendations for infants younger than 4 months as their sleeping patterns or habits manifest a lot of variations.

However, just because you sleep for the recommended hours daily does not mean that you are doing everything right. Sometimes, you might be sleeping the hours, but wake up the next day feeling tired and not feeling refreshed at all. That means although your sleep quantity is enough, sleep quality is not adequate at all. Therefore, unless you take the necessary steps to overcome conditions like sleep apnea that might be disrupting your sleep, you won’t be able to get rid of lack of sleep headache for good.

Lack of sleep quality

Conclusion

Lack of sleep headache is a very common health problem among many individuals. This condition occurs as a result of a lack of sleep quality and quantity. It also relates to other medical conditions like migraine, tension headache, and sleep apnea. 

There are lack of sleep headache treatments available. The symptoms of recurring pain and discomfort can be overcome by consuming appropriate medications. Pain killers, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants are a few among the medications used in treating headaches associated with lack of sleep.

You can try lack of sleep headache natural remedies to overcome this condition. They include adopting favorable behavioral changes and good sleep hygiene practices.

Getting adequate amounts of sleep in both quality and quantity is essential for maintaining optimal health. Sleep improves attention, memory, learning, emotional stability, and overall quality of life. On the other hand, getting too much sleep seems to be linked with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and depression-like medical conditions as well.

At the end of the day, you must sleep just right to establish optimal health and restore physiologic balance within your body. Just like anything else in your life, sleep should also hit the perfect balance. Neither too much nor too little!

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