Migraine Upon Waking: Exactly What to Do If You’re Waking Up With a Migraine


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A migraine attack can occur at any hour you’re awake, whether you’re up early for a morning run or way past your bedtime in a Scandoval-inspired social media rabbit hole. But as many people with migraine can attest, a migraine attack can happen even when you’re not awake—and having a migraine upon waking is all too common. 

Dealing with a migraine upon waking can feel like transitioning from a literal nightmare (a dream about an elephant sitting on your head) to a physical one (before you open your eyes, you feel like there may, in fact, have been an elephant sitting on your head). All elephants aside, the good news is, there are treatment options that can help you manage chronic morning headaches—and preventative steps that will help you avoid them in the future. But first, a look at why they happen in the first place.

Why do I wake up with migraine symptoms?

There are a few things that might be triggering your early-morning headaches, says Dr. Anna Pace, assistant professor of neurology and headache medicine specialist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.


If you can’t fall asleep, you can’t get enough sleep. An “insufficient amount of sleep, as well as poor quality of sleep, can make a person more likely to have a migraine attack,” Pace says. 

Sleep Apnea

“Sleep apnea is a very common cause of morning headaches,” Pace says, and treating it can reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, “especially ones that occur in the morning hours.”

Teeth Grinding & Jaw Clenching

This is especially common in people with TMJ—temporomandibular joint dysfunction—a condition that affects the jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. If you have a migraine upon waking and the pain is concentrated in your cheeks and jaw (possibly extending to your temples), TMJ might be the culprit, according to Pace, who says sleeping with a mouthguard could offer relief. 

What lifestyle changes relieve symptoms and side effects of morning migraines?

The migraine brain likes routine, Pace says, so any time your routine is disrupted, you may be more vulnerable to a migraine attack.

Her suggestions for setting a healthy routine include:

  • getting six to eight hours of sleep every night
  • maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time
  • staying well-hydrated (dehydration is a common trigger)
  • eating smaller, more-frequent meals during the day (low blood sugar is a migraine trigger, too)
  • exercising regularly (aerobic exercise is preferred, but any exercise, including yoga or tai chi, can be helpful)
  • not smoking (and avoiding people who are, if smoke triggers your migraine attacks)
  • limiting caffeine intake to around 200mg daily (that’s about two six-ounce cups of coffee)
  • managing stress where possible

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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