Migraines can be incredibly sensitive to triggers, and while it may seem counter-intuitive to wake up from a night’s rest with an excruciating headache, it could be a logical progression of circumstances that caused it. Fifty percent of all migraines occur between 4 am and 9 am, resulting in the majority of migraineurs waking up feeling tired, even if they don’t have a migraine.
Causes of Morning Migraines
That morning headache might not necessarily be a migraine. Cluster and tension headaches are often at their worst early in the day. For non-migraine sufferers who experience frequent morning headaches it’s worth getting checked out to make sure it isn’t caused by high blood pressure, sleep apnea or a brain tumor. For regular migraineurs, however, it’s possible you have a morning migraine, which could be caused by several factors.
Most patients find their particular triggers are additive in nature. If you experienced lots of stress the day before, for example, came home and ate some “comfort food” such as chocolate, and awoke in the early hours momentarily when the cat jumped on the bed, chances are good it’s enough to give you a morning migraine. Let’s break it down:
- That long, stressful workday is a potential trigger
- Caffeine in chocolate can contribute to the headache, however small the quantity you consume
- Interrupted sleep cycle means your brain didn’t get the rest it needs
Add to that the possibility of the slightest barometric pressure and you have all the ingredients for a horrible migraine recipe. In addition, your body produces fewer natural painkillers between 4 am and 8 am, while also releasing adrenalin in larger-than-usual quantities. This affects your blood pressure and the dilation and contraction of the blood vessels, so it plays a significant role in developing a migraine.
Beating the Migraine Blues
If you find yourself waking up to morning migraines, what can you do to try and avoid it becoming a pattern? Follow these recommendations and see if it makes a difference to you:
Practice “Sleep Hygiene”
Make getting quality sleep a top priority, by going to bed at the same time every day. Set your alarm to wake up at a fixed time even on weekends. Keep your bedroom quiet and cool, and avoid drinking liquids for an hour before bed so you don’t wake to use the bathroom too often. Ensure pets are kept out of your room and off your bed, and stay away from electronic devices while you wind down in preparation for sleep. Try a soothing meditation or music to help you relax, or take a restful bath soak with aromatic oils.
Few people react the same way to stress factors. Whether it’s conflict in your job, financial hassles or painting your hallway, you need to be able to recognize your stressors. Make a list of the things that cause you t become tense, and identify your defenses against each of them:
- If scary movies make you stressed, avoid them.
- If your family's bickering gets you uptight, try speaking to them about it and coming up with a safe word that will tell them when you’ve had enough.
- Accept that you can’t control issues like weather or menstrual cycles, but by reducing your exposure to other triggers during these situations you can take better care of yourself.
Look After Your Physical Health
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is vital for managing and preventing migraines. Follow a routine aimed at keeping your days as low-stress as possible. Get regular massages to help you relax, avoid challenging or confrontational situations when you can.
Limit your caffeine intake from both obvious (coffee) and hidden (cookies, candy) sources, and drink plenty of fresh water to keep your body hydrated. Keep the use of migraine medications for occasions when they are absolutely necessary, to avoid the risk of rebound headaches caused by withdrawal.
Snoring, bruxism or tooth grinding, or even sleeping on the wrong pillow can cause discomfort that could trigger a migraine, so don’t overlook any factors that could increase your risk.
Don’t allow morning migraines to steal your day before it even begins. Follow these tips to reduce your risk and start each day fresh and free from headaches.