The Headache and Sleep Apnea Connection – Is There One?

Starting out with the basics, let’s talk about Sleep Apnea – what it is, who can get it, is it dangerous? And why headache sufferers may want to explore this subject to get to the bottom of their frequent or cluster headaches.

Have you ever heard a snoring person, maybe even your bed partner, apparently stop breathing in the night?  They eventually start breathing  again with a horrific snort as they try to get oxygen into their lungs.   This can be very worrying  as well as disruptive to everyone’s sleep.   Sleep Apnea is a condition that causes sleepers to go through this cycle many times during the night  – often it results in them partially waking up as they recover their breath.

The word Apnea is derived from the Greek word for “without breath”  and perfectly describes what happens to sufferers many times each night.

18 Million American Sufferers

It is estimated that over 18 million Americans suffer from Sleep Apnea –  and most of them are undiagnosed.  Men are twice as likely to suffer from Sleep Apnea than women.  Being obese and diabetic (type 2) are major risk factors –  but anyone can suffer from it, even children, although it is rare in the young.

Ever Fall Asleep at the Wheel? Or in Your Office?

Some symptoms of Sleep Apnea to look out for are:  extreme daytime sleepyness, waking with a morning headache,  and  dry mouth.   If you have a bed partner, they  may eventually tell you what is going on of course.   Left untreated this condition can contribute to high blood pressure, motor vehicle accidents due to falling asleep at the wheel, impotence, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, memory loss due to repeated bouts of oxygen starved blood flow, and a general lack of energy during the day that may affect job performance.

Carbon Dioxide/Oxygen Levels are Critical

Headaches caused by Sleep Apnea are possibly connected to the out of whack levels of carbon dioxide to oxygen levels in the blood – this ratio is critical and causes very complex interactions with the whole cardiovascular system that regulates blood vessel constriction and dilation among other things.

Get it Checked Out!

If you , or someone you know, suffer from frequent morning or cluster headaches, the connection to possible Sleep Apnea should be checked out.    Sleep Apnea can be treated – many times with non-invasive, drug free solutions.

When discussing a new patient’s personal headache history, we at The Headache Doctor will be on the lookout for indications that they may suffer from this sleep disorder.  This is just one possibility among many headache causes.  We do not offer treatment for Sleep Apnea  but can refer patients to someone who can help them.   Our mission is to help get to the source of your headaches.  Together we’ll figure it out!