Brief Explanation of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. This type of sleep apnea occurs when the tissues in your airway sag while you sleep, causing a blockage. You may pause breathing for ten seconds or even longer and do this hundreds of times per night.

Eventually, your brain will wake you to resume breathing; these breathing stoppages are brief moments, and you’ll likely not even be aware they’re happening. Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to numerous problems, including:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Morning headaches
  • Mood swings/ irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Brain fog
  • Memory issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

When left untreated for long periods, OSA takes a toll on your physical and mental health. It may lead to:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Mood disorders
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dementia

Causes of Morning Headaches

Many people with OSA cite morning headaches as a common sign or symptom of sleep apnea in Anchorage. There are several causes of morning headaches for those who suffer from sleep apnea:

  • Oxygen Deprivation: Sleep apnea episodes cause pauses in breathing, leading to decreased oxygen levels in the blood. This oxygen deprivation can trigger headaches as the brain responds to the inadequate oxygen supply.
  • Carbon Dioxide Buildup: Sleep apnea can also result in an accumulation of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Elevated carbon dioxide levels can dilate blood vessels in the brain, leading to headaches upon waking up.
  • Sleep Fragmentation: OSA disrupts your sleep patterns, causing frequent awakenings. These fragmented sleep patterns can contribute to headaches due to insufficient and poor-quality sleep.
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of hypertension; elevated blood pressure can contribute to morning headaches.

What Kind of Headache Are You Suffering?

woman waking up with a morning headache rubs her forehead while sitting up in bedCluster headaches are associated with sleep apnea symptoms, distinct from sleep apnea headaches. Cluster headaches occur during sleep, whereas sleep apnea headaches occur upon waking. Unlike sleep apnea headaches, cluster headaches often include:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Tearing up of the eyes
  • Sweating
  • Puffy eyes
  • Droopy eyes

Cluster headaches often occur in clusters, which means you may get a few headaches in a day’s time around the same times over a period of a few months. For most people, cluster headaches are short-lived and typically are gone within an hour.

Hypnic headaches, which occur at night, are another sleep-related headache that may affect people with obstructive sleep apnea. This type of headache is most common in older adults.

While sleep apnea headaches begin after you wake up, hypnic headaches generally begin about four to six hours after falling asleep and often cause a person to wake up, which is why they have earned the nickname “alarm clock headaches.” Like cluster headaches, hypnic headaches are typically gone within an hour.

Many people with OSA describe their headaches as “migraines,” even though they may not officially be migraines. The pain sure feels like a migraine headache to OSA sufferers. The migraine-like headaches that OSA sufferers experience will last much longer than any other type of headache and may be accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.

Learn More About Morning Headaches and OSA in Anchorage, Alaska

Please call the Anchorage, AK sleep apnea dentists at Excellence in Dentistry (907) 349-0022 to schedule an appointment or ask questions not answered here. If you have morning headaches related to OSA, Dr. Skinner and Dr. Fox can help. Please also fill out our online contact form; one of our dental team members will contact you soon. The sleep apnea dentists at Excellence in Dentistry are thrilled to offer several highly effective sleep apnea treatments that will change your life.