Hypnic Headahes

What’s worse than having a headache during the day? Try headaches that wake you up from your sleep!

Hypnic headaches are a rare type of headache that wakes people from their sleep, and often as a result is referred to as the ‘alarm-clock’ headache.

There have been reports of hypnic headaches since 1981, and as a result they have been regarded now as an idiopathic headache disorder (ie. Spontaneous headache disorder for which the cause is unknown).

There has been little research into the condition compared to other headache and migraine disorders, but the symptoms and causes can easily be identified.


Hypnic headaches usually happen at the same time of the night, most often between 1-3am (Migrainetrust, 2019). Hypnic headaches have also been recorded to last anywhere from 15 minutes to 4 hours.

Pain can be unilateral (on one side of the head) or bilaterial (on both sides of the head). More severe pain is often described as throbbing.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sounds
  • Nausea
  • Other migraine-like symptoms

The pain, in rare instances, can also be associated with autonomic features such as a blocked nose or watering eyes.


Certain bodies of research have connected hypnic headaches with certain stages of sleep, but further research is needed to figure out what brings them on and how they can be prevented. Research has drawn connections between hypnic headaches and issues related to parts of the brain involved in pain management, rapid eye movement sleep and melatonin production (Healthline, 2019).

Patients studied in research literature that suffered from hypnic headaches also reported to have other types of headaches regularly.


Initial treatment recommendations are best prescribed by your trusted and qualified physician.

Your physician will begin asking you about your sleep patterns and habits, such as if you snore or are you restless during the night (Webmd, 2019).  Then they’ll rule out possible causes including:

  • Cluster headache or migraines
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Night-time high blood pressure or low sugar
  • Night-time seizures
  • Overuse of certain medicines
  • Inflammation in an artery in your head
  • Head injury or bleeding in your brain
  • Brain tumour

If you’ve had any ongoing concerns about any headaches, migraines or head pain talk to us at your next appointment. At Yeronga Chiropractic, Dr Aidan McGuigan regularly sees patients with acute and chronic pain conditions. Simply get in touch with us to discuss your concerns, we treat patients from all corners of Brisbane!


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