Why does lack of sleep often cause headaches?
Many of the same brain structures and brain chemicals are involved in both sleep and headaches. When there is a problem with this specific part of the brain, it can affect both processes. Although the exact cause of both insomnia and headaches is often unclear, the link between the two is significant.
Sleep problems that can lead to headaches
Researchers have linked certain sleep disorders with headaches:
- Snoring may be a sign of breathing problems during sleep, and people who snore often awake with headaches.
- Three out of 10 people with sleep apnea suffer from morning headaches, although it’s not entirely clear whether this is due to snoring or another factor.
- Teeth grinding while asleep can lead to muscle strain and pain, which can result in a headache.
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialty practice in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Areas of expertise include insomnia and other sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.
Dr. Ehrnstrom is not a medical provider and is not providing any recommendations regarding medications. Rather, she is sharing and reviewing the research as it relates to education when learning how best to treat insomnia.