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As a society, it’s fair to say that we aren’t getting enough sleep – for reasons entirely within our control. Whether it’s to do with using bright screens at night, the pressures and strains of modern life, or just the occasional worry on our minds, a lot can impact the quality of an average night’s shuteye.
But it’s even more frustrating when you have to spend those sleepless hours in pain – which many people who suffer nighttime headaches experience. Perhaps your head pains are stopping you from going to sleep; maybe they are waking you in the middle of the night. Regardless, it’s a problem you need to fix. Stop those headaches occurring, and you should be able to feel refreshed, invigorated, and in better shape come morning.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you might be getting headaches at night – and reveal some solutions.
Stress and tension
We all seem to lead more stressful lives than ever these days. And if you go to bed in a state of heightened tension, not only will it be difficult to drop off, but you are also more likely to wake up with a headache. The problem will only worsen, too. Exhaustion often triggers migraines as you sleep, and can even exacerbate them, meaning you end up in something of a vicious circle. You get a headache and can’t relax, and end up exhausted – and you get more headaches the next night, and the next, and so on. If stress and tension are causing your problems, it’s vital to seek help. Your doctor may prescribe you something for you if you are anxious, and some time off work could also be useful, but the real treatment lies in talking out your problems. A therapist or counselor could be the answer – once you start to get things out in the open, they will be able to suggest a few coping strategies.
As anyone who suffers from migraines will tell you, they can be incredibly painful, and wake you up at any moment. However, often you will find that migraines have particular triggers, so the first step to getting on top of things is to identify what is kickstarting the headache. It could be anything, so be aware of what you are eating before you go to bed, and also check your bedroom for chemicals. If you can’t find the source of the problem or the headaches increase in voracity, there are a couple of options available. See if you can schedule an acupuncture session. While acupuncture is still classed as alternative medical treatment, research suggests it can be very successful when it comes to headaches and migraines. However, it’s best to go and see your doctor first, who may well provide you with some pharmaceutical treatment for your migraines.
Of all types of headache, the variety known as cluster headaches are, perhaps, the worst. They cause excruciating pain and are sometimes known as ‘suicide headaches’ because of their veracity. They are called cluster headaches because they tend to occur at specific times of the year, which varies from person to person, and also happen at regular times of the day. If you get one during the daytime, it’s bad enough – but if they are waking you at night, it could be hours before you get to sleep. There are no cures for cluster headaches, although they can be managed when it comes to dealing with the pain. Some people take pure oxygen in a tank to ease their booming heads, while others can take sumatriptan – a steroid-like drug that opens up the blood vessels and relieves the severe and restrictive pain.
Hypoglycemia is a state that your body gets in when you have very low blood sugar. Once it occurs, it means you basically have not enough sugar in your body to function correctly, and the results can be quite extreme. You might experience terrible night sweats, for example, and, of course, it can also lead to quite nasty headaches. If it happens more than once, there’s a good chance you need to have a small, balanced snack before bedtime. Whole wheat crackers with a little cheese – not too much because of the nightmares! – and perhaps a small portion of fruit is all you need.
Just as you can get headaches after being dehydrated in the day, so you can experience the same at night. Of course, there is a delicate balance to strike between having enough water and too much – and you don’t want to switch your night time headaches for constant trips to the bathroom – so focus more on topping up your water levels throughout the day. And never go to bed feeling thirsty – when you feel like you need a drink, you are already dehydrated. You should aim to drink around eight average-sized glasses of water every day, and even more if you partake in any exercise.
Cut out the alcohol
It should go without saying – but unfortunately, it needs underlining! If you are drinking alcohol before going to bed, the chances are that you will end up dehydrated, and perhaps even develop a hangover while you sleep. A bedtime tipple every once in a while shouldn’t do you too much harm, but you really need to make sure that it doesn’t turn into a habit. In fact, if you do start relying on alcohol to calm you down at night when you don’t have a drink, your body will scream for it. And guess how that might present itself? That’s right – a nasty headache keeping you awake at night. So, take it easy on the alcohol, and if you do have a drink or two, make sure you top up with water before going to bed.
Ultimately, the headaches that wake you up at night might feel terrible, be incredibly painful, and start impacting your life. The good news is that it is highly unlikely anything severe or unmanageable wrong with you. With a little thought and a few lifestyle changes, you should be able to eliminate the problem. Good luck!