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Hypnic Headache

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Last updated June 11, 2022

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What is a hypnic headache?

Hypnic headaches are bad headaches that occur during sleep, and cause you to wake up in pain. It usually occurs a few hours after falling asleep, and the pain can keep people awake 15 minutes or longer. The headaches occur a few times a week. It is considered rare and usually occurs in older adults over the age of 50.

It’s not known why they occur but may be related to the rapid eye movement phase of sleep.

Treatment

You should see a doctor to discuss symptoms and treatment options. Sometimes further diagnostic testing is needed to look for more specific causes of your headaches. Caffeine is considered the best treatment for hypnic headaches.

Doctors also recommend drinking coffee before bed, which seems counterintuitive, to prevent hypnic headaches. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen do not provide much relief.

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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