If you are having frequent headaches, they can be disruptive. It can be hard to work, and even harder to play when you have bad headaches. It can feel very hard to track down the cause of your headaches, too, which makes them even more frustrating.

Sleep apnea is one thing that could be contributing to your headaches. In fact, there are many ways that sleep apnea could be causing your headaches. Fortunately, no matter how sleep apnea is causing your headaches, treatment could help reduce your headaches, as well as protect your health.

Discover the link between sleep apnea and headaches.

young woman sitting on the side of her bed with a headache

1. High Blood Pressure

We know that sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure. Also called hypertension, this condition may be one of the most conclusive conditions associated with sleep apnea. Less certain is whether high blood pressure causes headaches.

It is definitely true that hypertensive crisis is associated with headaches. In this type of high blood pressure event, your blood pressure is dangerously elevated and should be treated as an emergency. If very high blood pressure can definitely cause headaches, it seems likely that lower blood pressure could also cause headaches for some people. That means that this could be one cause of sleep apnea headaches.

2. Lack of Sleep

Another reason why sleep apnea could be causing your headaches is that you’re experiencing a lack of sleep without realizing it. You may be going to bed at the right time, but with sleep apnea, you might be waking up hundreds of times a night without knowing it. So you’re getting a lot less sleep than you think. Not only that but with the repeated awakenings, you’re spending less time in the deeper, restorative levels of sleep. You end up getting even less rest than what is needed causing headaches.

3. Oxygen Deprivation

When you have sleep apnea, you experience repeated stops in your breathing. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise if you experience low oxygen levels as a result. This can also lead to headaches partly because of a lack of oxygen and partly because of an excess of carbon dioxide.

4. Impact on Migraines

Other times, sleep apnea can aggravate other conditions you might have that also cause headaches. For example, migraines. People with sleep apnea may experience much higher rates of migraines. When people with sleep apnea got treated in one study, their migraine frequency dropped by a whopping 92%! That’s almost a migraine cure!

5. Aggravating TMJ

Another condition that can be aggravated by sleep apnea is TMJ. TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorders) can contribute to both migraines and tension headaches. Sleep apnea aggravates TMJ because when your breathing stops, your body often clenches the jaw to try to keep the airway open. This repeated jaw clenching can cause TMJ or make it worse.

This is a case where treatment might not always help. Some appliances designed to treat sleep apnea can also cause TMJ problems because they put your jaw in an uncomfortable position.

Other Reasons Why You Might Wake Up With a Headache

Sleep apnea isn’t the only cause of headaches in the morning. If you don’t have any of the symptoms of sleep apnea besides morning headaches, it might be something else causing your headaches. Here are some of the other reasons why you might wake up with a headache.


If you consume too much alcohol and don’t rehydrate yourself while you’re drinking, you can easily wake up with a headache and a hangover. If you always wake up with a headache after a night of drinking, try to cut back on your alcohol consumption or eliminate it entirely.

Caffeine Withdrawal

Although you most likely won’t wake up with a headache, if you skip your morning cup of coffee, it can happen at some point in the morning. When you drink caffeine, it causes the blood vessels in your head to narrow. When you don’t drink the caffeine, the vessels widen which increases blood flow and can trigger a headache. If you drink caffeine every morning, try not to skip it or you will likely get a caffeine withdrawal headache.

Too Much Sleep

You might not think sleeping too much is harmful to your health, but it is. Oversleeping can disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin. The disruption can lead to headaches in the morning.

Depression and Anxiety

Your mental health can also cause morning headaches. It might be medications causing your headaches or it could be your poor quality of sleep from your mental health problems.


Certain medications can cause headaches as side effects. If you recently started taking a new medication and the headaches followed, you might need to consult with your doctor about switching to something else.

Strained Muscles

If you sleep at the wrong angle while you sleep, it can cause muscle strain in the neck. Make sure you’re not sleeping with your neck at an angle and that your spine is aligned from head to toe.

Get Headache Treatment in Denver

If you are dealing with regular headaches that you think might be linked to sleep apnea, we can help. We offer an alternative to CPAP that can be more comfortable and more reliable. Since we’re both sleep dentists and TMJ dentists, we can make an oral appliance for you that will treat your apnea without aggravating TMJ.

To learn more about your sleep apnea treatment options in Denver, please call (303) 691-0267 today for an appointment at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.