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Insomnia and Headaches

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Insomnia Headaches Improve Help Sleep

Sleep habits are an overlooked trigger of headaches and migraines. We regularly hear about sleep habits affecting areas such as concentration and memory but the effects on headaches and migraines are not as well known and publicized. The reality, however, is that a poor night's sleep can lead to headaches. In fact, where insomnia exists, headaches may be chronic. The lack of understanding into the relationship between headaches and insomnia means that many people may continue to suffer from headaches while their insomnia is untreated and continues to trigger daily discomfort.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that involves one or both of the following:

  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Inability to remain asleep

Insomnia affects enormous numbers of people and when it occurs alongside headaches, it is important to investigate whether or not the insomnia is related to the pattern of headaches. For some people, it may be unrelated but for those where the two are linked, treatment can mean a better night's sleep and a reduction or elimination of headaches.

Sleeping Patterns

Research is still ongoing into the relationship between headaches and sleep, but it is thought that excess sleep can contribute to headaches just as not enough sleep can trigger headaches, particularly those that occur upon awakening each morning. In the same way that sleep patterns vary greatly from one person to another, the effect of sleep on headaches can vary a great deal as well.


Where a lack of sleep occurs alongside poor posture, headaches can occur. This is true in cases where, for example, a person works long hours at a poorly designed and uncomfortable workstation. Extended time awake that occurs as a result of insomnia, particularly when coupled with long working hours and poor posture, can lead to tension headaches. Obtaining enough sleep each night on a comfortable and supportive mattress can provide relief for those who are experiencing headaches.


People who compensate for a lack of sleep by ingesting large amounts of caffeine though coffee or supplement form may indirectly suffer from headaches as a reaction to the caffeine. If you think this may be the case, let your doctor know that you are suffering from insomnia and also explain that you are using caffeine as a coping mechanism. Your doctor may be able to suggest better ways to handle your insomnia and stay alert in the day. It's important that you try to cut back on caffeine slowly to see if your headaches improve and to also reduce your chances of suffering from withdrawal headaches.

Although people who suffer from headaches often say that it affects their sleep, the opposite may, in fact, be true. A lack of consistent, quality sleep could be causing headaches and migraines. If you suffer from both insomnia and headaches, it's important to see your doctor about your symptoms and sleeping patterns. It may be the case that by treating your insomnia, the headaches are similarly treated. You could also benefit from learning coping mechanisms that don't involve stimulants such as caffeine, which can trigger headaches. A good night's sleep is important for many reasons and if you suffer from headaches, it may also be the key to obtaining headache relief.

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I have severe headaches from not sleeping from severe IBS ,artrhitis, severe pms and severe period pain, nothing will help.I'd rather be dead. What do I do This article sure did not help.
Natasha - 16-Sep-12 @ 3:19 PM
Hi, I found your article very helpful. I have insomnia for about eight monthes. That is, usually I fall asleep intially but then I wake up in the middle of the night and it is really hard to go back to sleep again. Sometimes I didnt sleep at all even if I am exhausted. In both cases, I caught a bad headache in the morning which ruins my day. Even the look of my face is changed because of my poor sleep nights. I really dont know what to do. Please tell me what to do.
Mimi - 3-Jul-12 @ 7:22 AM
Hi, I have suffered from headaches for around 20 years now but the weird thing is that I get them if I don't get eight hours sleep. Even if I get seven and a half hours sleep, I will get a headache. They are really bad and make my life such a misery because I cannot hold down a jpb (I work from home thankfully) or make any arrangements at all. Holidays are out as are so many other things. I had an exray when I went to the TNT clinic years ago but they told me nothing was wrong. However, I do use a steroid nasal spray which does help me sometimes it seems but my nose always feels blocked up. What do you think?
Kris - 13-May-12 @ 8:17 PM
This article was very insightful and helpful. However the reason I'm experiencing insomnia is due to this weird, uncomfortable and sometimes painful sensation I feel when I close my eyes. It feels like I'm straining the muscles on my forehead. The tension is terrible even when I'm exhausted I cant sleep cause I cant close my eyes. I've tried painkillers and muscle relaxants and nothing relieves me. Help me please! What should I do?
Hloni - 12-May-12 @ 12:06 AM
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