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OSA, Headaches and Snoring are Linked

Obstructive sleep apnoea is related to snoring. Can be OSA linked to headaches too?

The common pain syndrome seen in clinical practice is headache. Almost everyone has experienced a headache. The intensity of pain may vary but pain is pain and can sometimes be debilitating. Only parts of the head structure are sensitive to pain.  The brain tissue cannot feel pain but the veins, arteries, muscles, sinus and nasal cavities, and skull coating do. The three types of headache are muscle contraction headache and blood vessel headache. The first one is the throbbing-kind of headache while the second one feels like a tight band around the skull (tension headache). The third one is called neuralgia, which causes sharp and stabbing pain.


More often than not, headache is a co-occurring disorder with other syndromes such as sleep apnoea and snoring.  Morning headaches usually occur and managing this effectively requires the knowledge of the associated affliction to fully diagnose it and prescribe the correct medication.

What causes pain? It is the result of changes in the muscles and blood vessels.

It is usual for people who snore and have sleep apnoea to wake up with a headache. The pain usually goes away on its own during the day. This situation is commonly exhibited by middle-aged, obese men.  Other symptoms of OSA include daytime sleepiness, hypertension, loud snoring and arrhythmias.

Snoring causes disrupted sleep not only to the sufferer but his/her bed partner as well.  The stress brought about by possible arguments with bed partner or other family members who lack sleep due to the sufferer’s snoring adds to tension headache triggers.  Tension headache has been linked to depression and anxiety which researches indicate is associated with patients how snores and have sleep apnoea.


A person’s facial features may contribute to excessive muscle contraction and snoring. This could be termed as temporo mandibular joint dysfunction, which is a treatable condition done by an orthodontist or oral surgeon. In some cases, using a mandibular advancement device (MAD) will help reduce the snoring.

Hypertension and headache in one breath.

Sleep apnoea and hypertension have been coupled with headaches. Studies regarding the possibility that medications for hypertension and sleep apnoea may worsen headaches.  Now this could be a dilemma for a person who has OSA and is hypertensive, add the fact that most headache sufferers (and snorers) are overweight. The connection is that being obese adds to the list of his psychological stressors, thereby aggravating his headaches. A healthy option would be to reduce calorie intake and exercise more to burn unwanted calories.  Weight loss can lead to less snoring, more sleep, less tension, less headaches.

Coffee, sleep apnoea and chronic headache could be linked.

People who lack sleep are naturally sleepy during the day. To combat sleepiness, the tendency is to drink excessive amount of coffee, and too much coffee has been considered to cause chronic headache.  Caffeine is in coffee, cocoa, tea, and colas. Excessive consumption could lead to tolerance. A missed cup of coffee could lead to withdrawal headache and the tendency is for the sufferer to gulp cups of caffeine to relieve the headache. The result is a vicious cycle. The best way to avoid caffeine-induced headache is to taper one’s intake or total abstinence.


Snoring and sleep apnoea causes headaches because of the changes in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Early morning headaches are common for someone who has untreated OSA and snoring due to poor ventilation during sleep. Vascular headache could be attributed to retained carbon dioxide. The solution is to use CPAP machine to address snoring, poor ventilation, and sleep apnoea. The proper CPAP therapy will eliminate all the symptoms including headaches.

Call us now at 1 300 750 600 for more information on how to address your sleep disorder. 

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