How Sleep and Headache Are Connected: The Science

Despite a long-standing association, how sleep and headache are connected remains mysterious. In fact, the relationship between the two is so profound that more research is needed. The good news is that if you suffer from either one, there are ways to treat them. Read on to learn more. A new study suggests that 80% of narcoleptics and 50% of obstructive sleep apnea sufferers will experience headaches at some point during their life.

There are a number of reasons why sleep is associated with headaches. In addition to the fact that it increases pain, it can also improve your sleep quality. Researchers have studied the association between migraine and sleep, and found that people suffering from chronic pain have higher pain scores.

The relationship between sleep and headache is complex, and there are a number of different mechanisms by which they are linked. Some studies suggest that lack of sleep increases the number of proteins in the brain that contribute to chronic pain. Others have suggested that lack of sleep may trigger migraine headaches. Also, if you sleep on a squeaky bed,  then it can affect your sleep. 

So How Does This Happen?

When we sleep, our brains are not resting. They are processing the day’s events and moving memories to long-term storage.” When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain has trouble completing this process. The result is that some memories might not get fully stored. In the process, you could develop a headache.

If you have less sleep, your brain may be fatigued. This can lead to increased frequency of headaches.” So lack of sleep might contribute to an existing headache problem and can make it worse (or trigger it in some people), but it doesn’t cause headaches.

How Good Sleep Helps Headaches?

While some people think that getting less sleep will cause a headache, this is not true. Research has shown that a regular bedtime routine can reduce the frequency of headaches. In addition, avoiding naps during the day can help you get a good night’s rest and keep your energy levels consistent. Insomnia can make it difficult to sleep well at night, which can worsen your symptoms. For this reason, many patients try to avoid taking naps during the day.

It’s also important to stay hydrated, which will reduce the frequency of headaches. Even though you might think that you’re dehydrated when you wake up, it’s important to drink plenty of water as soon as you’re awake. In addition to staying hydrated, a good night’s sleep can be shortened by frequent trips to the bathroom. Some medications, including anti-anxiety medicines and pain relievers, can also cause headaches.

Prevent Headaches by Getting Good Sleep Tips

The article then goes on to list quick tips of what may help you get a good night’s sleep in the best way possible.

  • Use Your Bed for Sleep and Sex, Not for Watching TV
    When you’re in bed, only spend time sleeping or having sex. Researchers found that people who watched television in bed were less likely to feel refreshed after their sleep than those who didn’t.

  • Don’t Drink Alcohol Before Bed
    Alcohol can make you drowsy, but it reduces the quality of sleep. It also increases your risk for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.” Both conditions contribute to a lack of restful sleep that would otherwise be much more restful without them.

  • Nix Caffeine and Nicotine at Least Six Hours Before Bedtime
    Caffeine can stay in your system for six hours after you drink it, so try to stop drinking coffee or cola no later than lunch time if you want to get a good night’s sleep. He also advises people who smoke to avoid cigarette use entirely by at least six hours before bedtime.

  • Get a Comfortable Mattress and Pillow
    The right mattress is important for a good night’s sleep, so don’t settle for what you have if you’re not getting the restful slumber that you need. A comfy pillow is additionally an essential aspect of a right night’s sleep. So don’t forget to replace your pillow every few years or whenever it becomes too flat.” For optimum sleep, use a memory foam mattress.

  • Get Some Fresh Air Before Bed
    Take a walk outside before you go to bed. People with sleep disorders that require them to use their bedroom for other activities to keep their bedrooms dark and cool. “This will minimize the stimuli that might interfere with sleep.”

  • Eat Right Before Bedtime
    Don’t eat a large meal right before bed. It takes your body time to digest, so you won’t be able to fall asleep or stay asleep as easily. But be careful not to go to bed hungry, either.”

  • Exercise During the Day
    Exercise is a great way to improve sleep. Aim for 30 minutes on most days and your body will thank you with improved sleep every night.”

  • If You Can’t Sleep, Don’t Stay in Bed
    Don’t lie awake in bed for hours unable to fall asleep. This can create psychological distress that can lead to even more trouble sleeping.” He suggests getting out of bed and reading or listening to soothing music until you feel tired.

  • Create a Sleep Routine
    Your body loves consistency, so create a bedtime routine that’s consistent every night to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and sleep. For example, take a warm bath or shower before bed. This will also help relax your muscles and ease tension that might be causing or contributing to your headaches. Then devour a mild snack, brush your teeth, examine something non-stimulating for 15 minutes, flip out the lights, and go to sleep. You can also consume supplements like melatonin for sleep.

  • Get Up at the Same Time Every Morning
    Getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends, is very important for regulating your sleep cycle. It will help keep your body’s clock consistent so you can fall asleep and stay asleep more easily.

  • Develop Good Sleeping Habits
    Doctors advise people with chronic headaches to develop good sleeping habits that they can stick to.


People who suffer from chronic headaches often have poor sleep habits. 

  • People with chronic headaches also tend to have anxiety and depression. 
  • There are a few things people can do to help improve their sleep and, in turn, help lessen their headaches.

If you are someone who suffers from chronic headaches, improving your sleep habits may be the key to reducing your pain.

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