What is Causing your Morning Headache?

There are dozens of different types of headaches with an equally large number of causes.  One of the more frustrating varieties of headache is the morning headache.  A morning headache is defined as a headache that either wakes you up from sleep or whose onset is within an hour of waking. Morning headaches are more common than you might think.  In fact, 1 out of 10 people regularly wake up with a headache. So what is the cause of this condition?  Research has shown that the primary causes of morning headaches are jaw clenching and poor oxygenation related to obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and other respiratory disturbances.  If you have regular morning headaches, there is a high chance that one or both causes is to blame.

Jaw Clenching

Clenching while sleeping can contribute to a morning headache

For decades, dentists have been treating nighttime clenching with a nightguard. In most dental practices, a nightguard is a piece of plastic custom fit to your teeth that has either a hard or soft outer shell designed to take the clenching force from the other teeth where it is not attached. In the past, dentists were taught that a well-fabricated splint would reduce nighttime muscle activity, relax the muscles, and decrease tension. There were two problems with this theory. First, the vast majority of people who clench their teeth at night suffer from a reduction in oxygenation in their blood supply. This reduction in oxygenation stimulates the muscles of the mouth to clench and move the jaw—this is our brain’s attempt at stabilizing the airway. A night guard will protect teeth but do nothing to decrease muscle activity in these patients. Second, most nightguard designs have an even uniform bite from the back teeth to the front teeth. The forces that can be exerted when back teeth touch the nightguard are much more significant than when just the anterior teeth touch the splint.. The pressure exerted on the front teeth is significantly smaller in comparison. This difference in force is due to the jaw joint’s mechanics.  Inadvertently, the classic design increases muscle activity, increasing muscle tension.

Poor Oxygenation

Oxygen levels in your blood are essential to reparative sleep. What happens to your oxygen when you sleep?

Oxygen levels are much more likely to be the leading cause of morning headaches than any other factor.

Dips in oxygenation disturb the body’s sleep cycle, which in turn reduces the quality and effectiveness of sleep.

Sleep is essential to clean up the brain, but this cleanup process happens in a step-by-step sequence. When the steps get interrupted, the brain doesn’t get the opportunity to clean itself.  When this problem compounds day after day, week after week, it begins to manifest in various ways, one of which is a morning headache.

If you suffer from morning headaches, you likely have either poor oxygenation or jaw clenching.

The solution begins with learning more about your problem.  We have various ways to customize our treatment to your specific needs.  We can help.

If you are interested in scheduling a free eConsult with Dr. Cairns to discover if you might be a candidate for care please schedule on the following link: Schedule an eConsult

If you are interested in learning more about Colorado Springs Sleep Apnea & TMJ Solutions please visit our website at: sleepishealthy.com