woman hold head in pain from headache for osa vs migraines headache differences blog post


Sleep Apnea Headaches vs. Migraines: The Differences and Treatment Options

Are you prone to headaches? Being able to tell the difference between different headache symptoms and causes can help you better manage them on a day-to-day basis. The time of day that your headaches flare up can be a good indication of what’s causing them. Especially if it’s first thing in the morning. 

Are Morning Headaches a Sign of Sleep Apnea?

A lot of people assume that when they wake up in the morning with a headache, it’s stress-induced or due to a history of migraines. But what you might not realize is that a morning headache can also be a warning sign of sleep apnea. 

People who have sleep apnea are known to clench and grind their teeth tightly throughout the night. This neuromuscular side-effect is the result of your brain being deprived of oxygen. The constant muscle contraction and tension can lead to chronic headaches that extend throughout the face, temples, scalp, and down into the neck, shoulders, and back. More often than not, sleep apnea headaches are most noticeable first thing in the morning. 

How Do You Get Rid of Sleep Apnea Headaches?

Once you have had a sleep test and the severity of your sleep apnea has been determined, Dr. Davis can then direct you with different options on how to help you get the rest your body is deprived of! CPAP machines can be uncomfortable but work great, as long as you are compliant with wearing them! Oral sleep apnea appliances are comfortable and open your airway to improve oxygen flow, at the same time preventing your TMJ and teeth from fully clenching together. This reduces muscle strain and overuse. As a result, you can effectively reduce sleep apnea headaches, oftentimes without the use of a bulky CPAP machine. However, there are other migraine treatments that can help if you struggle with headaches throughout the day such as Botox Therapy and traditional nightguards.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Sleep Apnea Headache and a Migraine?

Although there are overlapping symptoms between sleep apnea headaches and migraines, the two are both very different medical conditions.

Migraine sufferers tend to experience sensitivity to light and sound, or even endure nausea as the sharp headache pain starts to flare up. They often cause an “aura” where vision is slightly blurred, and the individual can tell they’re starting to develop a migraine before any symptoms of a headache actually set in. 

In sleep apnea headaches, there are other factors at play due to oxygen and sleep deprivation. Such as:

  • Sore teeth
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Broken dental work
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Snoring
  • Waking frequently throughout the night
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Falling asleep throughout the day
  • Headaches are worse first thing in the morning

If you suspect that you have a sleeping disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) you should speak to your medical provider and dentist immediately. Unmanaged OSA can significantly raise your risk of a cardiovascular attack. Your life could depend on it. 

Worried about having a sleep study done overnight at a clinic? Today, technology exists that allows most people to complete a formal sleep analysis in the comfort of their own homes. Home sleep studies record your pulse, blood oxygen levels, breathing, snoring, and are formally interpreted by a licensed sleep physician. 

How Therapeutic BOTOX Helps Treatment Migraines

Can a dentist help if you have frequent migraine headaches but don’t need (or are already wearing) an oral sleep appliance or nightguard? Absolutely! Therapeutic injectables such as BOTOX are popular for easing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But did you know that it is a muscle relaxer? That’s how BOTOX prevents deep creases in the skin: by easing the muscle tension underneath. So, when Dr. Karen Davis injects BOTOX into the facial muscles and TMJ, your ability to clench and grind is essentially prohibited, preventing headache symptoms. 

BOTOX headache and migraine treatment can last up to 4 months. The benefit of regular treatments of BOTOX is that over a period of time,  your muscles become retrained and more relaxed. Therefore, your need for injections will lessen and the onset of headache symptoms and jaw pain may stretch out to 6 or 7 months, depending on severity of habit.  

Headache Treatment in Sarnia

At Dr. Karen Davis Dentistry, we screen each patient for oral signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. If you’re a frequent migraine headache sufferer, Dr. Davis will help you identify the least-invasive therapy to treat your symptoms and work for hand in hand with your medical doctor for the best results. For oral sleep apnea and headache relief, call our practice today! 


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