Few things are more annoying than starting your day off with a tension headache.
Especially if you think it’s going to grow or become a migraine.
I used to deal with migraines and tension headaches at all times of the day.
But there was a common thread to the days it was just a tension headache and not a migraine.
In this article, I’m going to talk about 7 questions you can use to troubleshoot why you’re waking up with tension headaches and what to do about it. This will also be applicable to waking up with migraines.
1. Are blood sugar drops causing the aggravations?
Blood sugar is a very tricky thing for the migraine brain and needs to be monitored.
If our metabolism is compromised and we are reliant on steady blood sugar levels then having the huge span of time between dinner’s meal and breakfast’s meal may be too much for our brain to handle.
This means we need to opt in to slow releasing foods that will keep blood sugar stable throughout the night and won’t cause our blood sugar to spike or drop in the middle of it.
When our blood sugar drops, our body will release cortisol to bring more sugar into the blood so that we don’t fall into a coma or die.
But cortisol is one of our stress hormones and causes the release of energy that can interrupt our sleep phases and lead to a restless night that may trigger us.
This means we need meals higher in slow carbohydrates, with enough protein and a fair share of fat to feed our brains throughout the night.
- Yams are great sources of carbohydrates
- Nuts like cashews and walnuts are great brain fats
- and meats like salmon belly provide enough protein to keep digestion slow and enough healthy fats to feed our brains.
2. Are you losing more water than you can afford during sleep?
Water is one of the most essential nutrients for all life and keeps our brain cool and the electrical impulses inside of it functioning properly.
Sleep is essentially a giant detoxification process and our brain can shrink 20% during it to squeeze out all the waste products built up throughout the day.
This means it needs lots of water to fuel its ability to clean itself out.
Mouth breathers are even more so affected because they have a greater loss of fluids during sleep escaping through their mouth.
This means we need to do a really good job of hydrating throughout the day. Drinking pure clean water with enough minerals in it makes sure that it actually gets absorbed into our tissues and not just urinated out.
Pro tip: Add a little sea salt to your water throughout the day and if you have problems with getting up to urinate at night then add even more sea salt to the last water of the day.
This will keep water inside you instead of trying to get out.
Did you know most parasites have the opposite sleep cycle to us and are most active at night?
While we are trying to rest and digest, they are awake and making their rounds throughout our body, creating toxic waste products and taking our nutrients.
If they are present in high enough amounts they can actually create a cortisol reaction in our bodies all night long because our body has to work to fight them off and keep them controlled.
This means our sleep is getting chopped in half and it’s going to eat away at our body’s ability to repair from the day’s stresses.
If our body isn’t repairing properly, we are set up for musculoskeletal issues, mineral deficiencies, and tension that built up throughout the day, not being dropped while we sleep.
If you are experiencing digestive issues, skin issues or chronic insomnia then make sure to consult a specialist about parasites.
4. Are you going through a caffeine rebound while you sleep?
Caffeine is one of our favorite drugs and for good reason.
It gives us energy and keeps us awake.
It also makes some medications work faster and can save us from a full on attack.
But this amazing substance is double-sided.
It can also contribute to rebounds.
If we aren’t careful we can actually start going into caffeine withdrawal while we sleep.
As our body starts to crave the caffeine we can go through a number of symptoms like:
And so much more.
It’s a tricky game with caffeine so we need to make sure we either avoid it completely or have enough to get us through the night.
It’s also important to remember that caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours and that it artificially increases our stress hormones which can push back our sleep cycles.
5. Are your circadian rhythms synced up?
Circadian rhythms are like the body’s biological clock that regulates all our hormones and cells so that they know when to wake up and when to go to sleep.
If we aren’t getting enough direct sunlight or stare at screens all day our body can begin thinking it’s daytime when it’s actually not.
This will shift our entire circadian rhythm and our hormones may start going up when they need to go down and down when they need to go up.
If our body wakes up while we are sleeping we can develop the same form of headaches that come on when we’ve had too much sleep or woken up and then gone back to sleep.
Bad circadian rhythms mean bad headaches.
Wind down before bed, cut blue light from screens 2 hours before bed and make sure you get direct sunlight into your eyes during the day.
See the foundation principles to learn more about sleep’s effect on headaches and migraines.
6. Do you sleep in too long or with 7. Bad sleep posture?
It’s fairly common to know that sleeping in too long can give us that funny morning headache but there is also proper sleep ergonomics that can either contribute to a restful sleep…
Or contribute to muscular tension in our backs and neck that can lead to trigger.
Both sleeping in too long, too late and too short can be aggravators for tension issues.
Ask yourself when you wake up:
Did I sleep in too much or too little?
Was it a bad time to go to sleep or wake up?
See our article on cervicogenic headaches where the headaches are caused by shoulder or neck problems.
Make sure you:
– Have the right mattress for your body type(soft or hard)
– Have a pillow that supports your head and neck
– Use towels under your lumbar back and neck to give it more support
– When on your side use a pillow between your legs to prevent your pelvis from tilting and straining your back
And get a sleep study done!
It’s one of the first things to do when sleep seems to trigger us and can give us some insight into what’s going on but asking yourself the above questions and resolving deeper issues can give your body the proper rest it needs.
When our body can get the proper sleep, it can give us massive resilience towards all types of migraines and headaches.
If you are trying to understand your headaches then make sure to join the Migraine Professional community where we talk about everything headache and migraine related and how to get healthy again here.
Let me know below if you experience any tension headaches and what you do for them below.
Remember to share with others who may find this information helpful.
Holistic Health Practitioner
Mark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.