Headaches and Sleep

by Florence Cardinal Patient Expert

Headaches come in all shapes and sizes, from tension headaches caused by excessive stress or even excitement to the devastating pain of cluster headaches to debilitating and recurrent migraine headaches. Headaches have one thing in common. They make you miserable.

What causes headaches? As mentioned above, stress is one cause. Allergies, sinusitis, head colds can all bring on a headache. Some medications also can cause headaches.

Another cause of headaches is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder that can cause high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. It's also the most common cause of excessive daytime sleepiness, weight gain, impotency and, yes, headaches.

If you awaken in the morning feeling unrested, and if your throat is dry or sore, or, if you wake most mornings suffering from a dull headache that's hard to shake, then you may be a victim of sleep apnea. Other symptoms are loud snoring, jerking awake during the night and unrefreshing sleep.

If you suspect that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about having a sleep study. There are ways to treat the disorder. The most common treatment is the CPAP machine and mask. Sometimes surgery is the answer. Much depends on the severity of the disorder.

The dull morning headache may not be the only headache brought on by sleep apnea. People with this disorder are not getting the deep, relaxing sleep they need, and sleep deprivation is also a cause of headaches.

[Sleep deprivation] has reached epidemic proportions in America, and probably around the world. Work, recreation and social activities have eaten into the hours once reserved for sleep.

Not too many years ago, the majority of people slept at least eight hours a night, and sometimes more. Now the majority of people sleep five or six hours a night, and some much less.

According to the Department of Behavioral Biology at [Walter Reed] Army Institute of Research, sleep deprivation impairs alertness, cognitive performance, and mood. Sleep deprivation also causes a general feeling of malaise and headaches.

Sometimes these headaches are dull and persistent and may last all day. At other times, there may be sharp pains that shoot up from the base of the skull to the temples and even to the forehead. Whichever headache strikes, it is a warning signal telling you that you need more sleep

According to Cornell University psychologist and sleep expert James Maas: "We've become a nation of walking zombies. More than half the adult population of the United States is carrying a substantial sleep debt." And most of those people are walking around, only half awake, with throbbing headaches.

Isn't it time we made up our minds to improve the quality and quantity of sleep we get? Isn't it time to improve the quality of our lives? Get rid of the daytime sleepiness. Shake those persistent headaches by getting more sleep.

Florence Cardinal
Meet Our Writer
Florence Cardinal

Florence wrote for HealthCentral as patient expert for Sleep Disorders.