Can Sleep Apnea Cause Migraines?

migraines sleep apnea

Disturbed sleep is a potential migraine trigger but can sleep apnea be a culprit of this type of headache? Let’s discuss this in detail.

A migraine is a severe type of headache that usually causes a pulsing sensation and throbbing pain in one side of the head. It makes it very difficult to have a comfortable night’s sleep.

It makes it even more difficult to listen to your fellows who beg you not to look up your symptoms on the internet. If you’ve already done it, then you might have concluded as well that it’s sleep apnea that’s causing migraines.

Sleep apnea is a medical condition in which the patient repeatedly stops and starts breathing during sleep. This article explains if there is any connection between the two aforementioned medical conditions.

Are Sleep Apnea and Migraine Related?

The American Migraine Foundation suggests that people who suffer from migraines are 2 to 8 times more likely to fall victim to sleep problems. However, the morning headaches caused by sleep apnea have different symptoms from migraines.

Sleep apnea headaches subside within four hours, but a migraine without any treatment can last for up to three days.

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Migraine?

According to the ResearchGate study, there is a strong association between headaches and sleep apnea. Sleep deprivation is by far the most common reason for headaches in people who are suffering from this medical condition.

Other than headaches, it also leads to many health problems such as low oxygen levels in the bloodstream, fatigue, insomnia, and restless sleep. However, both morning headaches and migraines have different symptoms.

Studies also show that the lack of specific symptoms means there is no direct or clear relationship between migraines and obstructive sleep apnea.

Another ResearchGate study shows that snorers suffer from migraine attacks more commonly as compared to sleep apnea patients. Additionally, people without sleep apnea syndrome experience more migraine attacks than OSA patients.

It’s important to note that a sleep apnea patient can experience migraines, but the connection between the two isn’t clear.

What Should An OSA Patient Suffering from Migraine Do?

Dr. Mauskop from Harvard Medical School suggests the following tips that a migraine sufferer with OSA disorder can practice to improve the quality of sleep.

Eat Light Evening Meals

It might be fun to have a late-night binge, but it can disturb your sleep greatly. That’s why it’s better to eat light evening meals, especially if you have episodic migraine attacks.

Avoid Exercising Before Going to Bed

According to Harvard Health Publications, intense exercise just before going to bed can cause sleep deprivation. So, try not to practice it at least one hour before bedtime.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Avoid watching TV or reading after going to bed as much as possible. However, it’s really not easy to put that smartphone down. So, keep the screen brightness as dim as possible.

Go to Bed After Getting Really Tired

Let’s face it, staring at the clock and trying hard to sleep is one of the most frustrating experiences. Consider getting up in this situation and do something relaxing and calming until you feel exhausted.

Follow a Consistent Sleep Routine

Going to bed and getting up at the same time daily can positively impact your migraines. Spending time in sunlight and avoiding screens is also helpful.

Treatments for Migraine

Primarily, there are two main methods to treat migraine attacks.

Preventive Treatment

Preventive treatments such as supplements and other prescription options to ensure your overall health can reduce or manage migraine attacks.

Acute Treatment

Acute treatment aims to target migraines directly, and it includes prescription NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), prescription triptans, and over-the-counter migraine relievers.

Home Remedies to Treat Migraines

Other than medication, there are also some other methods to treat migraines.

Avoid Triggers

Try to avoid triggers as much as possible; we know it’s “easier said than done.”


Exercising regularly is good for your overall well-being. It won’t treat migraine attacks directly, but it’s an excellent way to deal with migraine triggers such as stress.

Eat Healthy Food

First of all, you must carefully observe your eating patterns and food to identify what triggers a migraine. It’s also important to eat healthy meals and avoid fast food.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

The National Sleep Foundation suggests that visiting your doctor is the first and most important step to take if you feel any symptoms of sleep apnea. Your doctor might also advise you for an overnight stay to undergo a sleep study.

The sleep study allows the sleep specialist to create a treatment plan by examining symptoms and the severity of your condition. Your doctor might also advise you to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine which can bring incredible results.

Home Remedies to Treat Sleep Apnea

Bringing new changes to your lifestyle can also help you with your sleep apnea symptoms. Some of the most significant ones are listed below.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol can relax the upper airway muscles, which are used in breathing, and lead to interrupted sleep.

Lose Weight

It’s not an overnight solution but losing weight is one of the most important home remedies that can bring great results. It can also improve your overall health and reduce stress.

Quit Smoking

If you don’t already know, smoking can swell upper airway muscles. Not only does it lead to snoring, but it also makes sleep apnea worse.

Final Words

Sleep apnea is the most probable reason if you often experience morning headaches. However, it’s too far-fetched to say at this point that sleep apnea also causes episodic migraine attacks.

There is not enough evidence that currently supports this possibility, and studies haven’t found any direct correlation between the two medical conditions.

Morning sleep headaches caused by sleep apnea are undoubtedly a serious problem, but they’re not migraine attacks. Both types of headaches manifest differently and have different symptoms.

If you experience morning headaches or migraines, visit your sleep specialist or doctor as soon as possible to deal with them properly.


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

Recent Posts