If you wake up with a headache more than half of the time, you should be evaluated for sleep apnea. Morning headaches are a familiar sign of sleep apnea, and 75% of people with sleep apnea suffer morning headaches. If you experience these, you are 8 times more likely to have sleep apnea than a person who doesn’t get them. It’s essential to get a sleep test, be diagnosed, and begin treatment to avoid the severe health consequences associated with sleep apnea.

Don’t live with the pain of headaches, and don’t just take medication to mask the pain. Reduce or eliminate them with treatment from our Omaha sleep dentists.

Types of Headaches

The type of headache that is most commonly associated with sleep apnea has most of these characteristics:

  • You experience it when you first wake up
  • It occurs more than half of the time (more than 15 days a month)
  • It feels like pressure on both sides of the head and doesn’t come with:
    • Light sensitivity
    • Sound sensitivity
    • Nausea
  • It goes away within a half-hour of waking
  • Resolves within 3 days of starting sleep apnea treatment and doesn’t return

However, research has shown that other types of headaches can be triggered in sleep apnea sufferers, including:

  • Migraine headaches can best be described as pain in the face or neck, usually throbbing in one area. You might also have sensitivity to light and sound, causing nausea and distorted vision. Migraines are generally caused by a “migraine trigger” such as stress or certain types of foods and drinks. In some cases, a cluster headache, tension headache, or chronic daily headaches can cause stress that triggers a migraine. Sleep apnea may serve as a powerful migraine trigger. 
  • Tension headache is the most common type of headache. It can feel like a dull, painful tightness and pressure around your forehead, eyes, head, and neck. Tension-type headaches are commonly associated with sleep apnea. 
  • Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types since they can wake you in the middle of the night with intense discomfort in your eyes and head. Cluster headaches can last weeks or even months for those unlucky enough to have them.
  • Hypnic headaches, although a very rare type of headache, can also wake people in the middle of the night. Sufferers sometimes say they sound and feel like an alarm clock in the head.

If you get any of these, you should talk to a doctor.

If you have been diagnosed with any of these types of headaches and experience them often, it’s time to seek treatment. Migraines have a very strong relationship with sleep apnea, increasing severity and frequency as sleep apnea worsens. Tension headaches may be related to a 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 the neck, jaw, and face muscles, leading to tension headaches. Hypnic headaches most often occur at night, but their relationship to sleep apnea is unclear.

man with migraine headache

Headaches Signal Sleep Apnea Risk

If you have any type of primary headache, you are more than twice as likely to have sleep apnea than those who don’t have a headache disorder. 

If you have headaches, especially tension-type headaches and morning headaches, you should consider your risk for sleep apnea. Look for other common sleep apnea symptoms, such as:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Tendency to fall asleep at work or when relaxing
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory difficulties
  • Moodiness or depression

If you have these or other sleep apnea symptoms, you should talk to an Omaha sleep dentist about getting tested for sleep apnea.

Effective Treatment For Headaches and Migraines in Omaha

If you have sleep apnea and experience chronic headaches, especially migraines, sleep apnea treatment may be able to help. In one study, people getting sleep apnea treatment saw their average number of migraine attacks drop from nearly six per month to less than one. They also saw a reduction in their migraine pain, missed fewer days of work, and took less pain medication for their headaches. Sleep apnea can serve as a powerful migraine trigger, making the headaches more common and more severe. 

We see similar results for people with tension headaches, and people with morning headaches see even better results. 

Even if sleep apnea treatment can’t fully resolve your headaches, it can play an important support role for other headache and migraine treatments. 

Get Better Sleep and Enjoy Fewer Headaches in Omaha

People with primary headache disorders are more than twice as likely to have sleep apnea than those who don’t have headaches. If you do have sleep apnea, the odds are that it is leading to more frequent and more severe headaches. This can interfere with your other headache treatments, causing you to lean more on preventive and acute headache medications. Treating sleep apnea can help with your headaches. For some, it might mean you don’t need other headache treatments. For most, it will help with your headaches and improve the effectiveness of other headache treatments.

Dr. Melissa Sheets is the foremost expert in using sleep apnea treatment to support headache treatment in Omaha, Nebraska. She can help you get the treatment that is comfortable, convenient, effective, and covered by insurance. Please contact our migraine treatment dentist for an appointment.