Napping is supposed to help you feel better, right? Take a nap, wake up nice and refreshed … but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
Sometimes you wake up from a nap with a headache. According to the National Sleep Foundation, those with sleep disorders have headaches two to eight times more often than the general population.
There are often underlying reasons for having headaches when waking from a nap. It’s important to find out what’s causing your headache, so the cause can then be treated.
What causes a headache after a nap?
There are multiple reasons that you might have a headache after a nap.
Breathing problems and snoring
If you snore, this could be an indicator of breathing problems. If you’re not breathing properly, this not only interferes with your sleep but can also increase the risk of headaches once you wake up.
- pauses in breathing during sleep
- nighttime awakening
- night sweats
- daytime sleepiness (because you’re not getting adequate rest at night)
Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Bruxism is grinding or clenching your teeth, often unconsciously. If you do this, especially while you sleep, it can be the cause of headaches when you wake up.
It can also be related to snoring and sleep apnea. When it’s significant, the repeated clenching can cause tight muscles during the day as well as a headache when you wake up.
Pregnancy can cause fatigue, leading you to nap more frequently, but you might find that you sometime wake up with a headache. This could be from a variety of factors, including:
- low blood sugar
Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids (and minimizing caffeine, which can be dehydrating) and eating often. If your headaches aren’t going away, talk with your obstetrician about your symptoms.
Your sleep hygiene doesn’t have anything to do with how clean you are. Instead, this refers to the habits surrounding healthy sleep. If you have poor sleep hygiene, this could be a factor in having a headache when you wake up from a nap.
If you’re using the wrong pillow for your needs, your head and neck could be in uncomfortable positions, leading to strained muscles and tension, resulting in a headache.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends using a pillow that holds both your head and neck in a neutral position, meaning not at an angle at all, almost as if you were standing.
If you’re napping because you’re not getting enough sleep at night due to insomnia, sleeping too little can also be a headache trigger that naps don’t always help relieve.
Napping too much can also cause headaches, since oversleeping is also a risk factor for headaches. Finding a happy medium for your sleeping needs is important.
How to treat headaches after a nap
Treatment for a post-nap headache depends on the specific cause of the headache. Only by understanding the underlying cause can you treat it appropriately and successfully.
Things like bruxism may be treated by therapy (if teeth grinding is caused by anxiety) or a mouth guard. But something like sleep apnea might involve lifestyle changes or using a machine to help with breathing at night.
There are some home remedies that can help ease headaches when you wake from a nap.
Trying a new pillow and practicing good sleep hygiene to increase restful sleep can also help to reduce the risk of headache.
Good sleep hygiene can include:
- reducing caffeine consumption
- daily exercising
- limiting daytime naps
- practicing relaxation techniques before bedtime
- developing a relaxing nighttime routine
If simple remedies don’t work, or you think there’s something like sleep apnea or bruxism going on, see your doctor. They’ll be able to examine you and determine whether there’s a need to refer you to a sleep specialist.
If you’re experiencing headaches after naps during pregnancy, staying hydrated and eating regularly can help. Blood sugar fluctuations can lead to headaches and fatigue. Remember to get some air if you’re inside all day.
And talk with your obstetrician if you’re concerned or if nothing you’ve tried helps.
Take time to find the method that works for you
Waking up after a nap expecting to feel refreshed but instead having a headache can be frustrating at best and a sign of a serious issue at worst.
It’s important to find the underlying cause of the headache in order to appropriately treat it and help prevent future headaches.
If you find yourself waking up with headaches from a nap or sleep, and small changes in the kind of pillow you have or your sleep routines don’t help, talk with your doctor about your napping habits and symptoms.