Sleep is a headache.
November 26, 2007 7:09 AM   Subscribe

A question about sleep, dreams, and headaches...

Almost every day I awaken briefly an hour or two before my alarm goes off. Sometimes I get a drink of water or go to the bathroom, but just as often I'll just fall right back to sleep.

A couple of times a week, I've found that I have a splitting headache during this brief awakening. I fall back asleep miserably, expecting to wake up later with the same pain, but without fail the headache has completely vanished by the time my alarm goes off. This has been going on for quite some time.

Also, there's the issue of my dreams. I have intense dreams almost nightly that I usually remember upon waking. Many of these are nightmares; I'm just so used to intense dreams by now that scary ones just seem like part of the territory. I've noticed that the bad dreams and the headaches seem to overlap with some regularity, and I don't know what to do about it. I don't know if the tension from bad dreams is causing the headaches, or the pain from the headaches is causing the bad dreams.

I get sleep, food, and exercise in healthy amounts. The last thing I do before I sleep and first thing when I wake up is drink a glass of water, so I don't think dehydration is the issue. I seem to sleep in comfortable positions. To my knowledge I don't grind my teeth; I broke the habit years ago, but I suppose it's possible that it's happening unconsciously. I wind up with mild eyestrain from computer usage every couple of weeks, which results in mild headaches during waking hours, but doesn't seem tied to the sleeping ones.

My question is, how do I approach this problem? As a health problem I should go to the doctor for? A psychological problem? Or is there something else I should be considering? And is anyone familiar with this?

Whatever happens, I'd like to be able to keep having the dreams, even the scary ones.
posted by hermitosis to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
Best answer: I talked to a doctor about this once. My headaches were sort of centered behind the eyes and always occurred when I woke up. He said it can happen when your eyes are straining to see while you are dreaming. He said it was probably nothing to worry about. I am not sure if this applies to you. You might want to discuss it with your doctor.
posted by milarepa at 7:12 AM on November 26, 2007

I know you discounted dehydration, but what sort of climate are you in, and how warm do you sleep?

I can only offer anecdotal evidence that if you're too warm, and the air is dry, you may still end up dried out after hours under the covers.
posted by canine epigram at 7:59 AM on November 26, 2007

My night time headaches took a years to diagnose, turns out the cause is allergies, dust mites & feathers!
A hepa airfilter in the bedroom makes a world of difference.
posted by misspat at 8:06 AM on November 26, 2007

Why not try omitting the glass of water before bed? You're probably not sleeping deeply into the morning because you have to wake up to pee.

That said, I've always had intense dreams, but intense nightmares became a problem for me for about 2 years some time ago. Once I stopped dating my ex, got into a much better relationship, stopped fighting so much with my mom, and moved into a nicer apartment, the nightmares pretty much stopped! Are there any life changes you can make to calm your psyche?
posted by infinityjinx at 8:30 AM on November 26, 2007

Are you clenching your jaw during sleep? I tend to do this (as I internalize stress) and rather than a "jawache" I will have a headache. I talked to the doctor about this and he said that after clenching the jaw muscles so much, I caused other connecting muscles in my head to slack. In doing, I caused a couple muscle groups in my head to "get out of synchronization" with each other. Ibuprofen and hot showers worked for me.

Maybe your headache is gone because you have been able to relax for another hour or two before finally really waking up.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:38 AM on November 26, 2007

Response by poster: All of these answers are worth looking into. I'm moving soon, so we'll see if the new location has any effect on allergies that might be bothering me.

However, milarepa's answer seems the most likely. Considering that I use my eyes to the point of strain so regularly, and considering the type of headache, it's probably my straining to see while dreaming that is a problem. I'll play with my water intake and see if that helps me sleep deeper, longer.
posted by hermitosis at 8:41 AM on November 26, 2007

Sometimes severe high blood pressure and other health issues can cause morning headaches.
posted by biscotti at 9:31 AM on November 26, 2007

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