I used to wake up with full blown migraine attacks all the time. Sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with full blown attacks.

Image: Abstract art face with a jolt coming out of the right eye and tear out of left eye.
Text: Why we wake up with migraine pain
Title: Do you have a migraine on waking in the morning?
Subtitle: What can we do if we wake with migraine attacks?

I will tell you why it happened with me:

I was working full-time. I have full-blown chronic insomnia and worked a morning job like most people. So I was constantly sleep-deprived. Constantly. I would get maybe 5-4 hours on a good day. And I pretended it was fine to function on 4 hours but Less was severely hard for me.

I got a lot of sleep paralysis and sometimes over and over and over in one night. A lot of hypnic jerks that would wake me up as I tried to get to sleep. Apparently, both are very common when you are severely sleep-deprived.

And every morning a full-on acute migraine and often very distorting migraine auras and violently ill.

Checked with my doctor

I went to the doctor and she basically told me how sleep-deprived I was and the only thing to do about it was to put me on a sleeping pill. Double the dosage actually.

And that worked. I actually slept for the first time in decades through the night and I stopped getting morning migraine attacks. Well, I do, but not every single day. And sometimes I get them in the middle of the night too but again, not all the time. I admit, more often now because I am down to one sleeping pill so I do not get as much sleep- still better than I used to get- and still wake up usually with no migraine.

I do have daily migraine attacks though. Just usually an hour or half a day sometimes into the day before the pain part of the attack stage starts. So I wake in the prodrome usually. Or sometimes the aura.

So getting sleep is a massive factor. We all know it is. But getting it is exceptionally difficult because Often we have a migraine At Night. And it is damn hard to actually fall asleep with a damn blaring ass migraine. And on those nights pain trumps sleeping pills every single time. And then you just lay there saturating in pain until you get up, frustrated, and do something to relax and waste more time you Could be sleeping. And then less sleep and then more pain and then less sleep and then more pain.

So things that can cause morning migraine attacks

  • As I mentioned, too little sleep
  • But Also too much sleep. Poor sleep in any direction can affect our migraine pattern. And if we have poor sleep all the work week we try to ‘catch up’ on the weekend and this just causes the exact same problem. As I used to do. Routine is our friend. As well as sleep hygiene. And ways to relax before sleep like meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, a nice Epsom salt bath… whatever calms you down.
  • Other sleep issues. Poor sleep Quality (like with fibromyalgia). Disrupted sleep routines (like with shift work)
  • You could be in a rebound cycle: Basically if you are rebounding on medications we can get a whopping headache when our brain expects medication. And it wants to be tamed at a specific time… or else. And this is hard to break. It can be done but it is a painful process of not taking those meds for some time and just running through it. With a doctor monitoring your progress of course.
  • The Stress Letdown Migraine: So this is a weird one. Often happens on the weekend or the first day of your vacation. Your brain is still getting through the stress from the prior day and you get hit with that in the morning on a day off or a vacation day. When you think you should be stress free and refreshed, but it the day before that is hitting you.
  • Your out of our natural painkillers: ‘Dr. Richard Liebowitz observes, “The early morning hours (between 4 and 8am) are when the body has its lowest levels of natural painkillers, so most headaches — including cluster headaches, migraines, and those caused by muscle tension — can be present and have their worst symptoms when you wake up.”’ Migraine Again
  • Dehydration and/or caffeine withdrawal– this is a cycle we can get into and not realize. We may not think caffeine is affecting us. But it has a slump and in that slump we can get a migraine. And… we slump during sleep. Also a lot of caffeine means dehydration.

Other very important things to consider

  • You may have hypertension
  • You may have sleep apnea
  • You may have Pseudotumor cerebri
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw

And you have to check with your doctor to rule those out. I have very low blood pressure. And I did actually have a sleep apnea test. (May need another one if you listen to my spouse. lol). I do, however, clench my jaw. And have put a lot of effort trying to relax it during the day… as I cannot afford the dental device to prevent it at night (may try one of those cheap versions you buy online)

Tips that work for me

  • I drink very little caffeine. And certainly Not 7 hours before bed.
  • I hydrate with a lot of water. And in fact, right before bed I have a bottle of water
  • I eat a small snack before bed
  • I have a sleep routine. Get up at the same time. Go to bed at the same time. No matter how much sleep I get.
  • I have a relaxation process before bed. Meditation or progressive muscle relaxation

Yeah, Chronic Migraine does suck
Artwork, chronic pain, society
A migraine story in pictures and art

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14 thoughts on “Do you have a migraine on waking in the morning?

      1. I’ve never really suffered from insomnia, “just” migraines” whcih is bad enough, as you can imagine. I just think that some of your advice will be good for me anyway.
        Thanks for your blog. I comment far too seldom but I wanted to let to know you that I always find it very inspiring.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve been monitoring my water intake because of kidneys, and I have sleep apnea. I had not put water and headaches together. This month I don’t think I’ve woken up with a headache. I’ll keep “watch.” Sure glad sleeping pills help you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They do but I think the sleep issue is a problem for me mainly because sleep is so complicated with fibromyalgia, so the sleeping pill does really help improve quality of sleep and also Getting to sleep. So that is a massive change for me

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Nikki! Before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I woke up every morning with a bad headache. Of course I also had a LOT of trouble staying awake especially when I needed to drive anywhere. I’m glad you included sleep apnea as a cause for bad headaches.

    Liked by 1 person

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