How to Sleep with a Headache - Tension, Cluster, & Migraines

How to sleep with a headache

Getting enough sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. As you fall asleep, your entire body repairs itself to enable your body and brain to function optimally when you wake up. However, retiring to bed with a throbbing pain pounding in your head can lead to sleepless nights. Many a time, these headaches are caused by many factors. Plus, there are many types of headaches, the common ones being tension headaches and migraines.

Read on to learn more about headaches, including how to sleep with a headache effectively.

Types of Headaches

First things first, you need to identify the type of headache affecting you. That way, you'll be able to know the common effects. These effects can range from misalignment of the cycadean rhythm to sleep apnea risks. Below are some of the headache types and their causes.


This is one of the chronic headaches popularly experienced by a majority of people worldwide. American foundation research has found that 1 in 7 people in the world is affected by this neurological disorder. Migraines are common mainly in the morning.

This happens so because pain medication taken to treat migraines wears off after approximately 6 hours.

Some of the symptoms associated with migraines are;

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea 
  • Light and sound sensitivity increase

Cluster Headache

These are headaches bundled clusters that you may experience multiples times a day. The number of episodes you're bound to experience lies between 8 and 15 times daily. 

One episode can last for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the severity of the headache.

Researchers believe that even though the causes of this headache are vaguely known, somehow genetics has a role in it. This headache is common in people above the age of 20 and those with heavy smoking habits.

Tension Headache

Also known as Tension-Type headache (TTH), it primarily occurs due to stress and fatigue. The leading cause of headaches is a gradual buildup of tension throughout the day. If you have the symptoms listed below, know that you have TTH.

  • Shoulder, back, and neck muscle aches
  • Tightening of the jaw
  • Persistent pain lasting for more than 20 minutes 
  • A mild aching sensation on either or both sides of the head

Related Content: How to sleep with shoulder pain

Tips for Sleeping with Headaches

Now let's take a look at some of the tips for sleeping with headaches. If you suffer from narcolepsy and you want to sleep peacefully at night with a headache, there are essential sleep routines you have to adopt.

This involves what you need to do before, during, and after sleep. To avoid poor sleep, which might lead to other disorders brought as a result of sleep deprivation, such as frequent insomnia, ensure that your sleep hygiene is on point.

These practices involve;

Avoiding Caffeine and Alcohol

Avoid these substances when preparing to go to bed. Caffeine being a stimulant excites your brain, so you become more active. In other instances, caffeine can be effective remedying a headache when taken alongside pain-relieving medication. It has a downside to it, though.

Caffeine narrows the blood vessels around the head to relieve pain. The pain might come back more robust due to the blood vessels widening, especially when you're asleep. That's why it's advisable to keep off coffee.

The effectiveness of caffeine alone is majorly visible on hypnic headaches. Since you may not know when it will attack, ensure you have coffee ready as a remedy.  You want to go to sleep as fast as possible after the episode, which can last up to 3 hours if not remedied hence losing a good night's sleep.

Alcohol, on the other hand, might cause sleep disruption as you keep waking up. This tends to reduce overall sleep quality. Alcohol contains a chemical known as histamine. In addition to that, it causes the body to manufacture more histamine, exacting inflammatory effects on the body.

Ethanol in Alcohol is also a natural diuretic converted by the body to produce chemicals that trigger migraines. Avoid dark-colored Alcohol such as red wine and whiskey as they may cause more potential damage.

Transform Your Room for Sleep

Make an effort to have a restful environment. This includes keeping electronic gadgets away or off and ensuring your room is quiet and warm with enough darkness.  If you're using electronic devices past your bedtime, you'll find it difficult to fall asleep.

If you feel like doing something before going to sleep, consider forming a relaxing routine. You can relax by listening to a sleep story or meditating; ensure you conduct these activities away from light stimuli. Light stimuli can keep your brain stressed or excited by secreting endorphin hormone (usually secreted in the morning), which keeps you active, leading to sleep problems.

If you have to use your phone or computer before bed, do it an hour before bedtime. This is because the blue light emanating from the screen causes Digital Eye Strain (DES).

If you have a headache, the blue light can intensify it. You'll experience frequent migraine attacks for continued use of screens. Plus, you risk developing chronic migraines.

Get a Good Night's Sleep

If you work a shift job, ensure you're sleeping for 6 to 8 hours a night to avoid sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. This will improve your sleep quality by a significant margin. Additionally, this can improve your immunity.

Lack of and irregular patterns of sleep are known to cause or trigger a chronic daily headache. Over long periods, you can suffer a chronic daily headache at varied intervals. Also, you're at risk of developing chronic migraines.

If you have sleep apnea, insomnia, anxiety, or some other issue like an ear infection you might also experience headaches which further affect your sleep quality. Ensure you don't oversleep, and you don't sleep less than 6 hours. Click here to learn more about sleep apnea and anxiety. 

Note that if you're suffering from hypnic headache (rare headache disorder), consult a sleep specialist since it manifests symptoms similar to migraine. The sleep specialist will help you distinguish and rule out migraine-related symptoms from those of hypnic headaches. 

Maintaining a Fixed Sleeping Time

Getting to bed and waking up at the same time is vital in improving your circadian rhythm. Meaning your body will know when to sleep and when to wake up.

This is essential if you want to avoid having poor sleep. If you're always sleepy or experience habitual sleeplessness, going to sleep at a fixed time can help prevent insomnia, sleep apnea, and even hypnic headache. People with migraines are more likely to develop insomnia than those suffering from other headaches.

Sleep Aids for Headaches

These meds are a deal-breaker, especially if you're looking for a "shortcut" to sleep faster, even if it is past your bedtime. Keep in mind that these drugs contain antihistamines. The sedative effect of the meds is what makes you fall asleep quickly when having a chronic headache. Sleep aids are also beneficial when sleeping with Intercostal muscle strain and other sleep-depriving conditions. Just take them as prescribed and you'll be snoring within minutes.

However, they might leave you exhausted in the morning. Some of these meds are readily available over the counter. For example, Melatonin can leave you with severe side effects like sleepiness and chronic headache.

It would be best to get medical advice from a headache specialist on using these meds or seek a prescription from your doctor, especially when dealing with headaches that arise from more serious issues. Do not be too reliant on these medications. When used over an extended time, the body gradually becomes intolerant of the right to sleep

This might, in turn, cause you to take more which might cause other non-related problems. If you notice this, inform your doctor or see a sleep specialist. 

Related Content: How to sleep with broken ribs

Get Enough Sunshine

In the morning, walk or busk in the sun between 8.00 am and 10.00 am. Ensure you wear sunglasses and a hat to avoid headaches due to sun heat (migraine). You should also ensure that you're hydrated.

The sun is essential for manufacturing vitamin D. Deficiency of Vitamin D may be linked to tension-type-headache and migraines. This is more beneficial to those suffering from tension-type headaches as it's connected to osteomalacia of the skull. Since headache might come due to a lack of vitamin D, you'd be doing yourself a massive favor by walking in the sun.

Get Medical Assistance

Sleeping with a throbbing pain in your head can be extremely frustrating. Maintaining the above guidelines will give you a clear pathway to rid yourself of sleep problems caused by these chronic headaches. Seek advice from a medical professional if you're experiencing comorbid sleep disorders as they are medically related.

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