Not all headaches are the same. How do you know whether you’re suffering from sleep apnea or perhaps a tension headache? Take an in-depth look at the different types of headaches and what separates them from one another.

Sleep Apnea Headaches

Sleep apnea headaches have a few characteristics that others don’t. For example, sleep apnea headaches occur first thing in the morning after you wake up usually only last for a half-hour. They also occur very often, typically 15 days a month or more. The headache will cause pressure on both sides of the head but not symptoms typically found with migraines such as light or sound sensitivity and nausea. After starting sleep apnea treatment, morning headaches usually stop within 3 days and don’t return unless you stop using your sleep apnea treatment.

So what causes sleep apnea headaches? When your airway becomes obstructed, oxygen levels drop in your bloodstream. As oxygen drops, carbon dioxide increases which causes the blood vessels surrounding the head to dilate. This dilation is what causes the pain identified as a sleep apnea headache. When you treat sleep apnea, carbon dioxide will no longer build up in the bloodstream and cause dilation.


Another type of headache is a migraine. Migraines not only cause throbbing pain in the face or neck, but they can also cause symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound, nausea/vomiting, aura, and distorted vision. If you’re suffering from a migraine, it’s not likely from untreated sleep apnea.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most commonly known, causing dull pain and tightness, and pressure located around the eyes, forehead, head, and neck.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are painful and typically occur during sleep. The severe attacks usually occur within the first hour after falling asleep and the pain becomes most severe around one eye and lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours. They can also cause a drooping eyelid, tearing, redness of the eye, and stuffiness in the nostril on the side with pain.

Hypnic Headaches

Hypnic headaches are incredibly rare and occur during the night. These will wake you up from sleep because the pain is so excruciating. They typically occur at night and last between 15 minutes and 4 hours. In some cases, they may also exhibit symptoms similar to a migraine.

Other Causes of Headaches and Migraines

mature woman holding her forehead in painSleep apnea might be the cause of your frequent headaches and migraines, however, there are many more potential causes including the following.

  • TMJ disorder
  • Dehydration
  • Hormone changes
  • Stress
  • Anemia
  • Lupus
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes
  • Sinus infection
  • Changes in sleep schedule
  • Too much caffeine
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Brain tumor

One of the best ways to determine if your headaches are due to sleep apnea is to get a sleep apnea diagnosis. Our team can help you take a home sleep test and receive a diagnosis from a sleep physician. If you experience any of the other symptoms of sleep apnea like snoring, coughing or choking during sleep, daytime sleepiness, inability to concentrate, restlessness, memory loss, and inability to lose weight, we strongly encourage you to take a sleep test.

Effective Headache and Migraine Treatment in Columbus, OH

If you’re suffering from frequent headaches and migraines, sleep apnea might be to blame. The only way to find out is to take a home sleep test. If your diagnosis confirms sleep apnea, we will move forward with a comprehensive treatment plan that allows you to breathe correctly during sleep. After just a few nights of use, you may notice that your morning headaches disappear and never return as long as you continue using treatment consistently.

Contact Dr. Firouzian in Columbus, OH to find out if sleep apnea treatment is right for you. Call (614) 683-4640 to book an appointment today.