Migraines are the most common neurological disorder which affects about 35 million people in the United States[1]. Those who are commonly affected are ages between 35 and 45 but can occur in anyone. Headaches can be caused by a variety of different factors such as stress, bright lights or loud noises, hormonal changes, and even caffeine withdrawal. However, it turns out headaches from lack of sleep (sleep deprivation[2]) are just as common and can lead to physical and mental health problems, injuries, loss of productivity, and even a greater likelihood of death. Sleep is a basic human need for people to thrive, so understanding how can lack of sleep cause headaches is important for us to find ways to achieve quality rest and learn how to get rid of sleepiness instantly.

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Headaches?

Lack of sleep is one factor that contributes to headaches. Not getting enough rest can lead to various health issues including headaches. Not having enough rapid eye movement (REM)[3] has been shown to reduce the body’s ability to withstand pain and trigger migraines. REM sleep allows dreams to occur and is essential for learning, memory, and mood. Sleep deprivation[4], in general, affects how the body regulates pain and inflammation. It can also contribute to other conditions such as obesity. Addressing sleep deprivation is crucial in managing and preventing headaches.

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What Does a Headache From Lack of Sleep Feel Like?

A headache caused by lack of sleep often presents as a dull, persistent pain that can range from mild to severe. It typically feels like a tight band around the head or a steady, throbbing ache. This type of headache is commonly associated with tension and discomfort in the neck and shoulders. It may be accompanied by sensitivity to light or noise, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. In some cases, sleep deprivation headaches can escalate to more severe migraines characterized by intense, pulsating pain, nausea, and visual disturbances. The exact sensation can vary among individuals, but it's generally a discomforting, nagging ache resulting from insufficient rest. Lack of sleep can also cause dizziness, especially upon waking. Lastly, waking up tired with no energy is also common for those who are not getting enough sleep.

What are the Different Types of Headaches Linked to Sleep?

The following are the three main types of headaches[5] that can occur from lack of sleep.

  • Wake-up Headache: This type of headache often occurs upon waking and is associated with sleep-related issues like sleep apnea or teeth grinding. It is typically characterized by a dull, throbbing pain caused by a change in oxygen levels during the night. It may also occur early in the morning, especially for people who are taking pain medications that wear off four or eight hours after taking them.
  • Hypnic Headache: Hypnic headaches are rare and unique to the sleep-wake cycle. They tend to strike in the middle of the night, waking the sufferer with intense, throbbing pain. Little is known about their exact causes, but they typically last for 15 minutes to 4 hours. The symptoms are nausea and light or sound sensitivity.
  • Cluster Headache: These headaches also frequently occur during sleep, often awakening the sufferer from sleep with excruciating, one-sided head pain. Cluster headaches typically last for 20 minutes to 3 hours. These intense headaches are known for their rapid onset and are associated with a disturbed sleep pattern during cluster episodes, earning them the nickname "alarm clock headaches."

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The ideal amount of sleep an individual needs[6] can vary with age and other factors. Generally, adults should aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. However, some people may function well with slightly less amount, while others may require more. Infants and young children, of course, need significantly more sleep for growth and development while teenagers will benefit from 8-10 hours of sleep. Factors like genetics, lifestyle, and overall health can influence sleep requirements. The key is to pay attention to your body's signals, ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed and alert. It indicates that you are getting the right amount of sleep that your body and mind need to function well.

What is the Link Between Lack of Sleep and Headaches?

The link between lack of sleep and headaches[7] is well-established and can be multifaceted. Sleep deprivation disrupts the body's natural rhythms, affecting various physiological and biochemical processes, which can trigger headaches. One of the most common types of headaches associated with sleep deprivation is the tension-type headache. Sleep loss can lead to increased muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, resulting in a steady, band-like pain around the head.

Furthermore, sleep-deprived individuals often experience alterations in pain perception and increased sensitivity to pain, making them more prone to headaches. Migraines, characterized by severe throbbing pain, can also be exacerbated by irregular sleep patterns. Inadequate sleep can lead to dehydration and reduced blood flow, both of which contribute to headache development. In addition, other factors such as eating certain foods and drinking alcohol before bed not only cause a lack of sleep but also a reduction in the quality of it.

What are the General Factors that Affect Sleep?

It is important to understand the factors that can cause a lack of sleep[8] to combat the issues. There are a variety of factors that can disrupt your sleep. Age significantly influences sleep patterns. Newborns and infants require more sleep. However, sleep and its quality tend to decrease with age. Lifestyle choices, such as irregular sleep schedules or excessive caffeine intake, can disrupt sleep. Health conditions like sleep apnea or insomnia have a direct impact on sleep quality and duration. Genetics can also play a role in influencing whether an individual is a morning person or a night owl, affecting their sleep preferences. Environmental factors, like noise and light, can disrupt sleep as well. Addressing these factors and establishing healthy sleep habits are essential for promoting restful and restorative sleep.

What are the Factors that Can Cause a Lack of Sleep?

Several factors can cause a lack of sleep[9]. Insomnia is persistent difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, often related to stress, anxiety, or other medical conditions. Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep which can disrupt one's sleep quality and that of their partner. Sleep apnea is a serious condition where breathing stops and starts during sleep, leading to frequent awakenings. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can result in disrupted sleep due to pain and discomfort. Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can lead to insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns. Stressors such as financial worries, work-related stress, or personal issues can cause racing thoughts and prevent restful sleep. Finally, sleep habits such as poor sleep hygiene, irregular sleep schedules, and excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption can hinder the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.

What Will Prevent the Occurrence of Headaches From Lack Of Sleep?

Several strategies can relieve a headache caused by a lack of sleep. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a comfortable sleep environment are crucial in improving the quality of your sleep. Hydration and a balanced diet can help alleviate headaches because dehydration and blood sugar fluctuations can contribute to painful headaches. Over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may provide temporary relief. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can ease tension. Reducing stress and managing sound mental health can also prevent sleep-related headaches.

Taking supplements such as NUU3 Deep Sleep Gummies can help you fall asleep faster. This product encourages relaxation and promotes deep sleeps which are essential for achieving quality rest. Other supplements such as NUU3 Keep Calm Gummies and NUU3 Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies can also aid in promoting calm and relaxation and can help regulate digestion and metabolism which are also important for better sleep.

What are Some Ways to Prevent Sleep Deprivation Headaches?

Preventing sleep deprivation headaches involves adopting good sleep practices[10]. Consider implementing these steps into your daily routine.

  • Consistent Sleep Schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time daily, even on weekends.
  • Optimal Sleep Environment: Create a dark, quiet, and comfortable sleep space with comfortable bedding. Keep the room at your preferred temperature.
  • Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activity regularly, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime.
  • Dietary Habits: Limit caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals in the evening, and avoid them close to bedtime.
  • Reduced Blue Light: Minimize screen time before sleep to reduce the impact of blue light on your circadian rhythms.
  • Light Exposure: Get exposure to natural and artificial light during the day to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Healthy Bedtime Routine: Wind down before sleep with relaxation techniques and a consistent pre-sleep routine.

What are Some Tips for Better Sleep?

Achieving better sleep involves implementing healthy habits and creating an optimal sleep environment. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Create a comfortable sleep environment with a comfortable mattress, darkness, and cool room temperature. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and heavily processed foods close to bedtime. Reduce your screen time on electronic devices and exposure to blue light before sleep. Engage in regular physical activity but avoid vigorous exercise before bedtime. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine, including calming activities like reading or meditation. Prioritize stress management and address any underlying sleep disorders with healthcare professional guidance for improved sleep quality and overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can lack of sleep cause mania?

Lack of sleep can trigger or exacerbate any manic episodes[11] in individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Sleep deprivation disrupts the body's natural circadian rhythms and can lead to an overstimulated state in the brain. This may manifest as symptoms of mania, such as heightened energy, irritability, impulsivity, and decreased need for sleep. People with bipolar disorder are particularly vulnerable to these effects, and sleep disruption can potentially cause manic episodes or make them more severe. Sometimes, sleep deprivation can be a symptom of manic episodes occurring in these individuals as well. Maintaining a stable sleep schedule and managing sleep disturbances are essential components of managing bipolar disorder and preventing manic episodes. Consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial for those affected by this condition as there needs to be a treatment plan in place.

Is memory affected by sleep deprivation?

Memory is significantly affected by sleep deprivation[12]. Sleep plays a vital role in the brain processes such as storing information learned throughout the day. When sleep is inadequate, this process is disrupted leading to difficulties in retaining and recalling information. Short-term memory, working memory, and overall cognitive function may suffer, impacting problem-solving and decision-making abilities. Chronic sleep deprivation can also contribute to long-term memory problems. It is essential to prioritize sufficient and quality sleep to support memory, learning, and other cognitive functions. Having sound sleep aids in the efficient processing and retention of information for better mental performance.

How to get rid of sleepiness instantly?

A: There are several ways how to get rid of sleepiness instantly. Dehydration can cause drowsiness. Drinking a glass of water can have an instant positive result on dehydration to avoid drowsiness. Drinking a small amount of caffeine, like coffee or tea, can provide a temporary energy boost. Taking a quick walk or doing other physical activities such as stretching can increase blood flow and promote alertness. Stepping outside and getting fresh air and natural light can help to perk you up. Get a splash of cold water on your face or take a cool shower for an instant refreshed feeling. Finally, engaging in a stimulating mental task, like doing a puzzle or engaging in a conversation, can also help you to stay alert.

Of course, these are temporary solutions, and the best way to combat sleepiness is by getting adequate and quality sleep regularly.


What are the side effects of lack of sleep?

The side effects of sleep deprivation can be numerous and impactful. They include cognitive impairments like reduced memory, poor concentration, and low problem-solving abilities both short-term and long-term. Mood disturbances like irritability, anxiety, and depression are common, which can also worsen underlying mental health conditions. It weakens the immune system and can increase your susceptibility to illness. It also contributes to weight gain and obesity, as it disrupts hunger hormones and can lead to overeating. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a higher risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Additionally, it can cause accidents due to impaired reflexes and decision-making. The consequences of lack of sleep are beyond headaches and can have a profound and negative impact on both your physical and mental health.


Headaches from lack of sleep are common and can be detrimental to quality of life. Moreover, sleep deprivation can significantly compromise your overall health making you more prone to cognitive impairments, mood disturbances, and increased susceptibility to chronic illnesses. Therefore, it is crucial to have enough sleep as it is paramount for a healthy and productive life. By understanding the importance of restful sleep, addressing any sleep-related issues, and adopting healthy sleep habits, you can enjoy a vibrant, balanced, and fulfilling life. A good night's sleep is a great investment in all aspects of your life to achieve optimal physical, mental, and emotional health.



Celeste Small

Celeste Small

Medicine has always been a passion ever since she was young so it was no surprise when Celeste decided to pursue pharmacy. Celeste Small was born in South Florida and raised in Melbourne, FL. She graduated from Rockledge High School in 2010 and received both her Bachelor of Science (in 2014) and Doctor of Pharmacy (in 2018) degrees from the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. Celeste has worked at in an independent pharmacy in Titusville, FL for three years after graduating from pharmacy school and currently is working at the Patrick Space Force Base in Cocoa Beach, FL as a contract pharmacist. Celeste is also currently a freelance medical writer on the side and has written content for blogs, presentations, and for educational material. She also manages a website called where she and other pharmacy colleagues post informative medical information for both healthcare professionals and consumers alike. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, going to theme parks, listening to music and enjoying the Florida sun.

  • Bachelor of Science, University of South Florida
  • Doctor of Pharmacy, University of South Florida
  • Florida Board of Pharmacy License
  • Florida Consultant License
  • Staff Pharmacist-Itani Family Pharmacy 2018-2022
  • Contract Pharmacist-Patrick SpaceForce Base 2022-Present
  • Freelance Health Content Writer 2018-Present
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Written by Celeste Small

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