Hypnic Headache – Causes and Treatment

Hypnic headache is a disorder that occurs exclusively during the night. Pain is located on one side or both sides of the head. This is also known as an alarm clock headache because it often wakes the person up from his sleep due to the pain. The hypnic headache usually lasts from a few minutes to 6 hours on average and is most common in people over the age of 50 years with a female predominance.

Symptoms of hypnic headache

  • The pain, throbbing in character
  • Photophobia
  • Phonophobia
  • Nausea
  • Nasal congestion

Causes of hypnic headache

There is no known cause but a few studies suggest some sort of relationship between the hypnic headache and stages of sleep.

A few times, people experienced a single episode, and the headache in such cases can be associated with:

Hypnic headache and menopause

It is very commonly seen in postmenopausal women, affecting their nighttime sleep.

Treatment: Calcium channel blockers and caffeine are given as bedtime doses. This increases blood flow to the heart and perfusion.

How is a hypnic headache diagnosed?

To reach a proper diagnosis, accurate information regarding sleeping habits and the quality of sleep experienced by the patient is required. The physician might require:

  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Sleep studies involve patterns, quality, the quantity of sleep, and sleep time habits.

Treatment for hypnic headache

  • Aspirin: As an over the counter analgesic.
  • Triptans: For migraine associated Hypnic Headache.
  • Phenobarbital: Seizure associated headache.
  • Melatonin: For better sleep.
  • Indomethacin
  • Caffeine
  • Lithium Carbonate but that requires proper monitoring.

Home remedies

  • Try taking enough sleep
  • Drink a cup of coffee before bed or take a caffeine pill
  • Release stress by doing exercises like yoga to have a good night’s sleep.

When to consult the doctor?

In case of frequent attacks and headaches not being relieved even after taking an analgesic, you should consult a doctor. Some other alarming signs include vomiting, nausea, convulsions, fits, seizures, or fever along with headache.


Why do I often wake up with severe headaches in the middle of the night?

Hypnic headache exclusively occurs during the night when you’re asleep, waking you up from a good night’s sleep.

What is the best treatment for a hypnic headache?

Lithium carbonate is the best treatment option available but it comes with some side effects.

What age group is most commonly affected by hypnic headache?

People in their 50 mostly report hypnic headaches but a few cases in their 40s have also come up with complaints of this type of headache.

How long does hypnic headache last?

The headache usually lasts from a few minutes to 6 hours on average.

Last medically reviewed on August 28, 2022.