Too Much Sleep as Headache Trigger

As part of keeping my body and mind on some sort of routine, I try to wake up when Hart does. When a particularly bad headache strikes when I’m asleep, continuing to sleep until my body says I should wake up usually alleviates the pain.

Occasionally, a morning will come where waking up is the last thing on my to do list. Assuming that I have a bad headache, Hart won’t push me to get out of bed and I, knowing that I’m tired, stay in the land of nod.

Then I wake up at noon, with a sort of hangover headache. It doesn’t become migraine-like pain, but its a heavy pain that rates between a 4 and 6. I feel like there’s a weight sitting on my head.

Why is it that so many people, with headache disorders or not, can tell similar stories? One theory is that serotonin and other brain neurotransmitters fluctuate during sleep. These variations can trigger the onset or worsening of headache pain.

So I can blame my brain for the impending implosion in my head. I will also fault it for my sheer lack of motivation. It’s 2:30 and I’m just beginning to post. I have given e-mail a cursory check, but haven’t looked at Bloglines for relevant headache news and information.

I’m physically and mentally tired. Lying on the couch reading chick lit is now my plan for the day, not sorting papers in the office or cleaning the disgustingly dirty kitchen. I don’t even want to return friends’ phone calls.

45 thoughts on “Too Much Sleep as Headache Trigger”

  1. Headache every morning caused by eyeball pain (rear of eye) which starts 4-5hrs after going to bed, the pain radiates up into the brow and forehead. The pain now causes nauseousness and an all day feeling of flu like symptoms in the head and body.
    I know I don’t start getting the pain before this because I get up regularly in the night for a toilet break (enlarged prostate). Trying to sleep in only makes it worse once your awake.
    Numerous prescription drugs help but side affects are what stops me continuing them constantly.
    The most successful was Tremadol sustained release (one before bedtime), no real side affects but concerned to what it does to your brain and possible long-term addiction.
    I’ve tried normal paracetamol with limited relief, but I think that causes joint pain in my case.
    Doc thinks it’s increasing my anxieties, I’d say yes! but I’m not depressed.
    Opthalmologist gave the all clear, optician said I have no underlying problems with 20/20 vision after correction (I’m in my senior years now), MRI clear, waiting to see neurologist and ear, nose, throat doctors, till then it’s a long suffering wait when your talking about Australian government funded referrals!

    1. You should consider seeing food allergies too, many people don’t realize how much foods and different drinks causes our headaches.

  2. been there seen it got the teeshirt firstly as soon as I hit 40 I got migraines worst thing ever I tried every thing more caffeine less caffeine more sleep less sleep god only thing I noticed was more chance when tired of getting one I normally have 7 hours sleep any more than that I feel groggy when this happens get out go for a walk push yourself and it will pass then I was going on holiday got the normal migraine then 3 days later got another one I had a large cheese pasta the night before and thought lets give up the cheese and its now been 3 months since a migraine also lost 14 pounds in weight touch wood good luck everyone worth a try keep hydrated also

  3. Strangely it’s so nice to hear I’m not alone! Even though I wish none of us had to suffer. My 30 and have been getting migraines since I was 19. I’m on beta blockers for them as I get them so often but mine are always on a Saturday and or Sunday morning after I sleep in only 2hours more. My period does make them so much worse and I own a business so stress along with tension in my shoulders probably doesn’t help. But beta blockers did change my life for the better. Also drinking water can soothe mine if I’m stuck somewhere. Sometimes when people say that I just laugh as you don’t understand if you’ve never had migraine how incapacitating they are. I’m going to try getting up as my weekday routine at the weekend and see if that helps at all

  4. I would like to sleep in but have learned that for me, and it sounds similar for many, that oversleeping isn’t best. I also believe we have the best sleep when we try to follow the rhythm of the sun meaning wake before sunrise. I never feel groggy when I wake before sunrise I may feel sleepy later and can get a good nap in but to sleep in past sun rise is the worst for me. I also read it’s not good to sleep too long it’s bad on the heart.

  5. Oh my, I am so sorry to read you all have this yet so relieved that I am in company with so many. I wondrr if it has something to do with positioning, that heavy sleep cuts off circulation or if the sinus fills when laying down and causes pressure.

  6. im 15yrs old nd nt tht i wnt to wake up but my headache wakes me drnk ame capsules to myk it stop but iy tyks so long to stop..smtyms its sooo painful tht i cme to an extent of crying!! ths dznt trigger only in th mrngbt also during the day out of nowhr

  7. I should add that a nap during the day does the same thing – horrible headache when I wake up. Consequently, no matter how tired I am during the day, I refuse to nap, unless I’m ill.

  8. Interesting to see the various comments on this. I have had a lifelong love-hate relationship with sleep. I don’t require a huge number of hours, apparently – I average about 4-6 per night. If I go over that by an hour or so, it’s not a big deal, but if I go way over it, like I did last night, I suffer from a near-migraine headache when I do finally get out of bed. The night before last, I was up until 3am, trying to get some things ready for a trip I was taking yesterday. When I returned home, I was exhausted, having only gotten about 3.5 hours of sleep before taking off for my trip (I know, not a good thing to travel on that small amount of sleep, but I actually felt fine, not tired at all – until I got home!). I collapsed into bed at 8pm last night and was instantly asleep, and didn’t get up until 8am – a solid 12 hours of sleep. The Aleve (plus coffe) I took an hour ago is finally kicking in. One of these days I’ll stop doing this to myself!

    1. WOW, amazing! Your posts “sleeping descriptions”is almost exactly like me, but I cannot sleep more then 6 hours, no matter the travel time. Daily sleep 4-5 hours, power nap 15 minutes. No headaches! If I force myself sleep more massive headache all day. Thank you for your post.

  9. I’ve read all the comments on those miserable headaches. Personnally my migrane almost wakes me up from nap between the hrs. of 3& 4 PM. I must get up and many times mving verticlly relieves some of the pain. As a last resort I will take Excedrin containg caffeine. This does relieve the pain. The whole scenario is that the migraine only shows up at nap time. My neighbor says she periodic get migraines and drinks Mountain Dew soda. I guess its the caffeine.The whole problem with migraine sufferers is what the best way to keep these pains from happening?

    1. Merrill, napping itself can be a migraine trigger. If you don’t take a nap, do you still get a migraine at that time of day? As pleasurable as napping is, not taking one might be your migraine solution!


  10. Surprising no one is mentioning about sumatriptan and whether it helps their migraine.
    I have also started getting associated eye and ear pain which are so painful and debilitating and it is on the side that I sleep that I get these symptons along with the headache. anyone with earache?

  11. I am a 36 yr old male and have had these sleep headaches for the last 16 years now and they have been getting gradually worse. I’ve had an MRI scan 4 yrs ago of my brain – turned out totally normal. I’ve had a brain EEG around the same time – again I’m normal.

    Six years ago I had 40 sessions of Bioneurofeedback training and he said there was something a little non-normal about my brain waves. He told me: We all have certain brainwaves that we use throughout the day and night. Some we use for during the awake hours and some we use for the asleep time. He said, talking to me as he was measuring my brainwaves in real time as he was talking to me that basically I was using the sleep-type theta and alpha brainwaves to function during my awake hours. He said a normal healthy person uses a much higher ratio of Beta brainwaves to the other brainwaves during the awake day hours. I have no idea of the implications of that but just wanted to share.

    I also might have another gem of information that might benefit somebody. I recently found out that I have a chronic Candida infection. I have all the symptoms. I recently talked with a top university physiologist and picked his brain on what my sleep problem could be given my symptoms and diagnosed problems. He said the only thing he could think of is that if I really did have a candida infection inside me that constantly spews out toxins into my body then the headaches that come from sleeping more than 5 to 6 hours a day might be explained by how the kidneys function. The kidneys and liver are there to filter and clean the blood from poisons and toxins. He said, when you sleep the kidneys kind of rest, or they don’t filter as much as when you are awake (which makes sense because your heart rate slows – and therefore less blood is pumped through the kidneys to be cleaned). So basically the body can’t deal with the toxins as effectively during sleep as it can while you’re awake because there is less filtering going on when your heart slows. I don’t know if I believe that but I know it is the only possible explanation I’ve come across in the 7 years I’ve been actively looking for answers on this issue. Dozens of doctors tell me there is no proven case of candida infection in anyone. If that’s the case then why can’t I get rid of a fungal infection that has been on my feet since the age of 4 yrs old? Why can’t I get rid of the toenail and fingernail fungus with rounds of medication both pill and cream? Why is it that my symptoms get 5 times better when I cut the sugar and breads and starches and fruits out of my diet? Candida is the only thing that can be attributed to all these things that I know of so far. I’d like to be wrong but so far no other possible explanations from any doctor or even another person.

    maybe this is all our problem?

    1. Daniel,

      What an interesting story. I’m glad that changing your diet has improved all your symptoms. I hope you continue to see improvement!

      Take care,

  12. I suffer from these headaches as well, I used to try everything, paracetemol, asprin, ibuprofen… then my friend gave me some ibuprofen with codeine in it. Worked a miracle! I occasionally get headaches that even codeine cant help, but most of the time its a life safer.

  13. Interesting comments… I’ve suffered from chronic headaches (daily, especially during work week) for around 12 years now. I consider them to be tension headaches and NO medecine relieves them. CONSISTANT exercise was the only thing that helped me about 7-8 year ago. I’m now 44 and have yet to be able to get to that point again. I have a desk job and I’m convinced it’s killing me. I discovered a while back that I rarely have headaches if I get up right away without hitting the snooze button. I’m mean right away, even 5-10 minutes of laying there will trigger them. Then, they intensify during the day at work. Looking back, I could continue to lay in bed for a long time upon waking up without any headaches when I was consistantly excercising. Basically, its form sitting too much without enough activity. My conclusion is proper diet and exercise will eventually rid myself of the headaches and I feel like superman and happy. Getting there is easier said than done, but I know that it works even with my desk job and 30 mile commute to/from work. Good luck!

  14. Shame that nobody has figured out what type of headache this is, trigger, solution etc.. For me this typically happens on the weekend when I oversleep (9-10 hours vs 6-7 hours typical).

    Sometimes ibuprofen, food and coffee will fix it, other times I have the headache all day long. Sleeping more doesn’t help it, and if it’s a persistent headache, even more coffee/chocolate/other caffeine doesn’t help. Often it’ll dull the pain but it seems to last all day long.

    I’d love to figure out what the problem is.. Don’t think it’s blood sugar, nor caffeine addiction, hydration, etc. But my general morning activity is to eat and drink my one cup of coffee, so it’s always possible. I’ve started logging my headaches, as I have minor headaches frequently which I generally attribute to eye strain (mostly pain around the front of the head, maybe pain level of 2-3) but these “slept too much” headaches hurt all over, but primarily in the back of the skull and can range in pain from 4-6.

  15. Hi, it is great in a way to see others out there with the same problem, I too feel increasingly groggy the more I sleep after about 7 hours or more, usually resulting in a headache. My whole head feels thick and heavy. The longer I sleep the worse it gets. Any other headache I get usually seems to originate or travel up the back of my neck. I am not one who wants to take any sort of tablets if I can but I do find sometimes that liquid caps of ibuprofen are necessary. But a seemingly crude and simple method that I DO FIND VERY HELPFUL is to have a good hot shower and take in with me a bottle or big glass of cold water, once you are comfortable and quite warm from the shower I pour the cold water slowly over my head while keeping my body under the hot water. I find that probably 50% of the time this gives me an almost oinstant cure, the other 50% it will just help greatly and ibuprofen and drinking cold water does the rest and I’m good within an hour. I hope this helps anyone out there like it can for me. At the very least it helps wake me up a bit. The relief outways the initial shock of the cold water. I find it very helpful and refreshing. Give it a try, it beats chemicals.

  16. During the summer i didnt wake up till like 11:00 but school started last week and i wpke up at 7 with no headaches and 2 day i work up at 10:30 and i have a headeache

  17. Hi, i suffered from exhaustion and mild daily headaches for 2 years now, and most of the doctors couldn’t really help.
    Monitored night sleep discovered i have a snoring-breathing-oxygen problem and i used CPAP as recommended.
    I may be not as tired as before, but my headache stayed the same.
    So I got myself together and did my own self experiments.
    1. Avoiding caffeine – was great but lasted only 2 months before the headache returned.
    I didn’t eat chocolate, drink coffee or black tea, coke or any king of caffeine.
    2. I opened my room’s window at night and pre-cleaned all the dust. it lasted a few days only.
    3. The last one that i’m about to further investigate is sleep less.
    Generally, It seems that my morning forehead-ache has something to do with the sleep stage i’m at.

    Does it make sense?
    I’ll keep updating, if I’ll realize someone is actually following this post…

  18. I’m very surplised that I’m not the only one with these symptoms I feel kind of relieved I thugh something was really wrong with me my solution is that I have to wake up at 6 am on weekends when I don’t go to work I rather do that than have a headache all day

  19. I have suffered from chronic daily headaches for the past 6/7 years. I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on doctors, specialists etc etc who can NEVER give me any answers… After years of doing my own research I have narrowed my headaches down to sleep…

    I still do not know exactly what it is about sleep, but i completely relate to all the comments above. I am always tired and groggy during the day, with a thumping headache that wont go away. The funny thing is as the evening arrives the headache starts to go and I hardly ever go to sleep with a headache.

    Some small suggestions that have helped me are to sleep on my back.. I have always been a front sleeper and since changing, the associated neck pain has eased, giving me fewer headaches. I know this may not suit all the contributors above but, allowing my body to go through the natural course of sleep and not waking up to an alarm (a nightmare if you work 8/9am – 5pm) helps me. Also allowing natural light to enter the room in the morning. I used to sleep with block out curtains and my room as dark as possible as I thought it was helping me sleep. I have now found that with the curtains open, my body must recognise its morning and begin the process of naturally waking up (rather than not knowing if its night or day in a dark cavernous room!!)

    Im not sure if these tricks will help anyone else but they have helped to cut down my headaches.

    Also if anyone reading this has found other tricks or cures PLEASE share them!

    Mike (Feb 12th 2010) – I also find if i eat some sugar, and also salt!! it helps me too, I actually think my body craves it?!?

    Veronica (March 24th 2010) – have you followed up on your sinus theory? I have also suspected sinus problems may be the cause!

  20. Intersting………. No one has mentioned menstual migraine. I’m pretty sure that’s what i have- even though I get these 7-9 times a month. They started at 13 when I started mentruating. I’ve had them for 30 years. So, I know it’s not FOOD, it’s not WATER, I don’t THINK it’s vitamin deficiency. What DO women do to help the crazy hormone fluctuation, causing this debilitating pain!!?? HELP!!

  21. Same here – last night I fell asleep at like 8pm and didn’t wake up till about 7:30am – my head is killing me. True not as bad as my migraines or even almost daily headache but still bad. I suspect it’s from the fluids in our sinuses etc. pooling up in our heads. Ok not a very scientific presentation but that’s my theory – even though I don’t have sinus problems I know there is fluid in there and my ears hurt more than normal as well when I sleep too long, hence the theory. Like lots of pressure in head and ears. Sometime’s it’s splitting though so not sure how that would factor in. All I know is I normally sleep only 6hrs per night and if I sleep longer (rare occasion) I always wake up with a headache…normally my headaches start 3 – 4 hrs after waking.

  22. it’s weird i also get hedaches if i sleep past 10am. The trouble is i like my lie-ins too much! When i was younger i used to get severe migranes, they were so bad i couldnt do anything untill i went to bed for a couple of hours. I went to my doctor and he just prescribed me ibeprofen. the ones i get now arnt as bad but it feels like ive just woken up after a heavy night of drinking! I just dont know what to do about them.

  23. I’m 23, and I’ve also noticed I get bad headaches if I sleep more then 8 hours. I feel fine with 5-7 hours of sleep. Anymore then that,I’m really tired with a bad headache. Even if I drink a lot of water during the day, I’ll still have a headache. The only thing that helps me is to drink a lot of water the day before. and get about 6 hours of sleep. Exercise the day before also helps me. And eating healthy.
    This is going to sound random, but it helps me. If i have some sort of candies, anything with sugar, chocolate, doesn’t matter it helps my headaches a bit. Maybe I have (low blood sugar)?

  24. I’m a 21 year old male, and I’ve had the same problem for at least the last five years. During the week I get up at 7am promptly, feeling refreshed and ready for the day. But at the weekend, when I don’t have the alarm clock, I may oversleep an hour or two, and wake up with the worst headaches.

  25. I also get them because of stress, even a little stress can cause a headache, I am writing a script for a production company just now so Ive been getting them more regularly 🙁

  26. I have the same thing, I am a 19 yr old male. Mostly triggered with sleep, if I just sleep in an hour or two I’ll have a bad headache all day untill I take some paracetemol. I sometimes just randomly get them for stupid everyday things like:

    – hot
    – thirsty
    – hungry
    – tired

    I used to get them A LOT when I was younger but then I got glasses and they cut down quite a lot. Still suffer from them though, I can get them almost everyday sometimes or I can go for a good few weeks without having one. Ive never been to the Doctor’s about them, maybe I should.

  27. I am 18 years old with 5 or 6 concussions from wrestling at my school under my belt, and I too have intense headaches when I wake up which tend to hinder my college studies for I simply cannot function in my early morning classes. So naturaly when I told my doctor of this he merely wrote it off as the doing my my growing body or many head injuries. I thought this was strange since the majority of them happen when I am in the midst of sleep or early after I wake up.
    I thank you for all of your help this post has provided me with.

  28. I am depressed. I know this. I sleep all the time. Lately, I have been getting the heavy hangover headache associated with too much sleep. I was told physical activity would help. However, just cleaning the dishes, and walking the dog see to be a challenge, with such a massive headache.

  29. For me, i sleep about ATLEAST 8 hours aday, IF NOT 11 or 12, if i wake-up before 8 hours of sleep, i’d be pissed and i’d have a headache, and if i wake-up after 8 hours or more i ALSO have aheadache, my headaches are so bad i feel like my skull is heavy just like Josh said, my headaches wont go away even when taking aspirin/or tylenol, i cannot NOT sleep, because i’m used to sleeping too much, but also the headaches wont go away, im so tired! ANY SOLUTION?

  30. When i wake up i feel that weight in my head too, and i get headaches all the time especially if i oversleep. when i went to see a doctor about it on several occasions to different doctors they all had different theories, one told me it was due to relationship stress,the other told me i wasn’t breathing properly (like what the hell??) and another told me it was probably due to too much caffeine intake, and the last one said i probably don’t get enough sleep..
    I also had CT scan and there was nothing wrong..
    At the moment i have the flu and now i cant sleep because of that.. argh!!
    but it was a real surprise that this many people have the same or similar problems…

    goodluck to everyone on finding a solution..
    all i can say is im tired of trying i just want it to go away already!!

  31. For mi it’s kinda the same i’m barely fourteen and for like two or three years i have suffered from freakin headaches that feel like someone is drilling into mi skull its unbearable and i don’t tell anyone not really i take ibiprophen or something like that behind mi parents back just so the pain can ease. after that i go to sleep for like five hours everyday but the hours seem more like minutes cause i’m always left with this really weird feeling before mi head starts bugging mi and i just wanna die. Sleep seems to be the only thing i do sometimes i can’t get up to go to skool bacause it feels like to much effort and i know that everything will feel and look weird if i step on to my floor. i dunno what to do if i should switch meds and get something that will help or maybe it’s because of mi depression and feeling i have no idea but i know it wasn’t like this because at first it use to be i would sleep like two hours a day now its close to fifteen or eighteen…AGH its annoying i hate these headaches why cant they just go away….if you can email mi and tell mi what to take hopefully it works..

  32. I too can completely relate to what you all are saying. For years, I have had these random headaches that start when I wake up and just last all day. They aren’t generally severe but just, as one person put it, feel like I have a huge weight of my skull all day. It just feels like I’m not fully awake even though I can go about my day, like a hangover over a dehydration headache. I’ve never been able to figure out how to make them go away. Lately (within the last year or so) I’ve found the Excedrin works fairly well for me (better than aspirin or Tylenol) I’m guessing because of the caffeine. I’ve never been a coffee drinker and don’t drink caffeinated soda. I’ve wondered whether I drink enough water during the day, though I’ve never really been able to sustain a test of that long enough to see if it really makes a difference. Lately (as I have noticed many times in the past) when I sleep in late on the weekends I invariably wake up feeling groggy and not fully awake, often accompanied by a headache. I’ve never been able to figure out how much sleep I need or what time I need to wake up or go to bed to feel fully rested. I rarely ever wake up and feel fully rested. My work requires that I wake up around 6-6:30am, which is not when I naturally wake up when I don’t have to. And yet, strangely on those rare occasions when I have to wake up really early around 5 or 5:30am to travel or something I usually feel really rested and energetic all day and then wiped out (in a good way) at the end of the day. On the weekends, without the alarm, I will usually wake up around 8 or 9am, but usually don’t feel awake enough to get myself out of bed (and yet I don’t have a headache or anything) so I allow myself to fall back asleep (especially because I enjoy waking up with my wife who is a late sleeper) and end up slowly waking up around 10 or 11. When I slowly wake up later in the morning like that I invariably as mentioned before feel really groggy the rest of the day. So, should I force myself to got to bed later the night before so I still only get 6-8 hours, or should I force myself to wake up early and forgo the joy of waking up with my wife…? Arrrg! I wish I could just figure myself out! Its great to know I’m not alone, though!

  33. I just had a bad headache and my grandmother told me to soak my feet in hot water and drink hot tea and I feel so much better!

  34. I find this as well especially when i sleep in or take naps during the day.
    It seems in my case, it has something to do with natural body-sleep rhythm. Everytime i oversleep my average 6 hours during holidays like an 11 hour sleep, i seem to have an annoying headache.
    And when i take time to sleep during the day for the extra few hours i almost always wake up with a headache.

    Hope this helps, any other suggestions are good 🙂

  35. It’s 10:22 and I got out of bed only because I couldn’t take the headache anymore. EVERY time I try and sleep in, my head begins to ache and the only option I have is to get up. 🙁

  36. Just reading these comments, I have it on my heart to share.I have been married for 18 years. My husband suffered from 11 to 15 Mirgranes a month 12 years of our marriage. My freind shared a simple nutrition shake that you take 2 a day. It helped her body out so much that she no longer suffered from migranes. My husband would have drank Mud if you told him, it could help. So he did the nutrition shakes and among other awsome results it has been 6 years and has had maybe 6 headaches due to not drinking enough or he knew the cause of it. So he will forever be thankful to our dear freinds for sharing it with us. Because of his results, he shared with so many people. We basically had a business be born for us. I am greatful for that too ! Anyway, if I can be of any help and anyone would like more info please contact me.

  37. I wake up cranky and tired as hell before I realize I have the worst headache that will not go away. Even a night cap doesn’t help. Is there any medicine out there that can make this go away? Help me!

    There is very likely medication available that would help you, but I don’t know what it would be. I recommend talking to your doctor about it.

    I wish you the best of luck finding a treatment.


  38. I kept a sleep log for weeks to see if there was a connection–and there’s not for me : / I wish someone would give me the owner’s manual for my brain 😉

  39. Hi Kerrie,

    What an amazing coincidence…I just wrote last night about Exhaustion! Check it out if you like, at Your blog reminded me so much of my daily experience. There is some huge sleep link in chronic headaches. I’m going to talk to my neuro about getting me into a sleep clinic. I never wake up refreshed and often awaken with a bad h/a. I have to wonder if I am not sleeping deeply enough, or something, but it is likely the complex chemical stuff they don’t have figured out yet. Anyway, thanks for the post.

    That’s funny! A study showing the link (but not explaining it) was presented at a conference in January. It’s about kids, but it sure rings true for me. —

    I cleaned up my blogroll yesterday, but I somehow missed Wind Lost. I just added it. You’ve made a great start. I’m looking forward to reading more.


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