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Getting Headaches at Night? Here’s What Your Body’s Trying to Tell You

Woman in bed with a headache looking at smartphone

1. You’re Grinding Your Teeth as Headache

Headache is a common symptom of teeth grinding. The coronavirus pandemic has caused enough psychological stress that more people are suffering from teeth grinding and jaw pain, according to a 2020 study in the ​Journal of Clinical Medicine​.

If you grind your teeth (you may not be truly aware of it, but your dentist might ask you at your next appointment if your teeth show signs), then you may need a mouth guard to protect your teeth from damage.

Developing a stress-management plan — as best as you’re able in these trying times — can help you release angst rather than constantly clenching.

2. You Have a Headache Disorder

Migraine, tension and cluster headaches are the three big categories of headaches.

“These can happen at any time, including nighttime, and are triggered by various factors, like poor sleep or too much sleep, food, medications and stress,” Dr. Dasgupta says.

You don’t have to live in pain. If headaches are striking often, jot down how they feel — a good description can help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

Migraine headaches are characterized by throbbing sensations, are often severe and the onset may come with an aura (like seeing flashing lights), Dr. Dasgupta says. Tension headaches are like a band around your head. Finally, cluster headaches are burning and piercing, aptly called “ice pick” headaches.

3. It’s a True Emergency

If you can describe your headache as “the worst headache of my life,” that’s a buzzword that perks up an emergency physician’s ears, Dr. Dasgupta says. One potential cause is a ruptured brain aneurysm that can lead to a brain bleed, which is life-threatening.

Get help immediately and tell emergency personnel that, yes, this is “the worst headache of my life.”

4. You Have Anxiety or Depression

By the evening, everything from the day has come to a head. While you can experience symptoms of anxiety or depression at any time of the day, for some people, they may be especially acute once the day is over.

Headaches themselves can indicate that someone is suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. What’s more, people who have more severe symptoms of mood disorders are also more likely to have migraines, March 2018 research in the journal ​Headache​ shows.

There are medications that can treat both headaches and anxiety or depression. Talk to your doctor.

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