Does lack of sleep cause headaches?
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Does lack of sleep cause headaches?

Getting sufficient sleep is essential for a healthy and active life. While you sleep, your body repairs and rejuvenates itself in order to perform your everyday activities with easy and optimize your brain functioning. So, what happens when you are sleep deprived? 

Well, we all have had gloomy days and severe headaches and also blamed ourselves for not sleeping well the previous night. 


Sleep and Headache

The relationship between sleep and headache is undeniable. Although unclear, for if sleep deprivation causes headaches or headaches lead to disturbed biology of sleeping cycle, these two are invariably interlinked. A number of studies have suggested that sleep deprivation or irregular sleep cycles may trigger a headache or migraine. Headaches due to insufficient or interrupted sleep are generally labelled "tension headaches", and in addition to this, lack of sleep may also trigger cluster headache attacks, hypnic headaches etc.   

Conversely, it is also true that excessive sleep may also trigger headaches or migraine.

Migraine attacks are generally noticed between 04:00, and 09:00 am, which suggests that trigger maybe sleep or circadian cycle or both. Likewise, jet-lag and shift-work may also be contributing triggers to headaches influenced by sleep. Excessive sleepiness may be part of the premonitory phase before a migraine attack, or a consequence of the attack. On the other hand, sleep can be therapeutic during a migraine attack and may even help to terminate it. 


Cluster Headache

A striking relationship between sleep and cluster headache is suggested by various instances and scientific studies. If not exclusively, cluster headaches often arise during sleep and at similar times during days and nights. This concludes that the irregularity in sleep and disturbed circadian rhythms in sufferers leads to cluster headaches.


Hypnic headache 

Hypnic headache is thought to be a rare form of headache disorder. This is mainly seen in older women, whereby attacks seem to wake sufferers from nocturnal sleep with a dull, featureless headache, often occurring several times a night. The depth of sleep stages alters with age. With the older population having less slow-wave sleep than younger people, it is safe to assume hypnic headache may result from a reduction in slow-wave sleep in susceptible individuals. 


In chronic sufferers, it is often seen that insomnia and migraines co-exist. Both insomnia and migraine are more likely in people who often sustain quite mild head injuries, as part of post-concussion syndrome. Headache can especially be associated with excessive daytime sleepiness. 


What accounts to this relationship of Sleep and Migraine?

The balance of sleep and wakefulness, regularity in timings, relies on a finely tuned system known as the Homeostasis. Too much load on either of these systems in contrast to the other, like staying up at late hours or oversleeping on weekends, may lead to disturbed Homeostasis. In this case, the system will try and compensate for redressing the balance. Lack of sleep often leads to headaches and migraine.


It can occur like the migraine attack may actually force you to stay still and in the dark to help you sleep if you are sleep deprived, while in other instance if you have overslept, the migraine attack may have an opposite effect of keeping you awake. Both these scenarios may be a way of trying to redress both sleep pressure and circadian alignment and keep the system in equilibrium.


Remedies for headaches:

If you suffer from migraine or headache due to lack of sleep, few of the remedies below may help:


  • Be Active:

Getting a break from your monotonous schedule with headaches. For instance, if you have a job where you are required to sit in a place for eight hours a day, take a break and go for a walk for a few minutes to break the routine.



Acupressure therapy has shown to reduce the frequent common migraine in some individuals. Also, ensure that acupressure is performed by trained professionals only. 


  • Maintain a diet:

It is essential to ingest a balanced diet in order to regularize your sleep cycle and consequently reduce migraine attacks or headaches. 

Magnesium, on the other hand, is known to reduce migraines. Hence, it is essential to enhance the intake of magnesium and other important minerals to keep those migraine attacks at bay!


  • Hydrate:

One of the best remedy to prevent headaches in drinking water. Studies have confirmed the existence of water-deprivation headache. This headache is associated with irritability and decreased concentration. Hence, it is essential to drink the prescribed amount of water every day.


  • Get a massage:

Getting massages actually help with sleep issues. Massages relax your muscles and release the tension. This can actually help in getting better sleep.


  • Use peppermint or lavender oil:

Essential oils are known for various reasons. They help in relieving in headaches. A recent study showed that peppermint oil was able to help with nausea and headaches. On the other hand, lavender oil is known to soothe tension and relieve pain.  


  • Use of proper bedding:

It is necessary to have comfortable bedding while you sleep. A sleeping mattresses will either help or disturb sleep, depending on the quality. Flomattress is an online platform that provides custom mattress according to your needs and requirements.