It’s National Migraine Awareness Month and as a way to bring more awareness to migraines and headaches, we thought we would explore some of the most common causes of headaches and migraines. In some cases, figuring out the cause of your headaches and migraines will point you in the right direction for an effective treatment plan.

Pay attention to your headaches and migraines to try and determine their cause.

young woman suffering from migraine

1. Dehydration

One of the most common causes of headaches is something that you can usually avoid as long as you drink enough water. A dehydration headache occurs when there is not enough fluid in the body. When there’s not enough fluid, it can cause the brain to shrink or contract. This then causes the brain to move away from the skull and cause a headache or migraine. After you rehydrate yourself, the brain will plump back up and the pain should subside. To avoid a dehydration headache, make sure you drink at least 64 ounces of water per day and more if you do strenuous exercise, sweat a lot, or drink caffeine or alcohol.

Some signs of dehydration include extreme thirst, confusion, dark-colored urine, reduced urination, fatigue, dry, sticky mouth, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, loss of skin elasticity, and dizziness. If you’re severely dehydrated, try drinking something with electrolytes while also decreasing activity and cooling yourself off if it’s hot.

2. Hormones

Another common cause of headaches is hormonal changes. For instance, it’s common to experience headaches during certain periods of a menstrual cycle, as well as during pregnancy or menopause due to the drop in estrogen levels. Hormonal birth control can also cause headaches and migraines. If you take birth control, switching to a progesterone-only or non-hormonal type can help improve migraines. If you’re going through menopause, taking hormones might help. Talk to your physician to learn about the best option for you.

3. Lack of Sleep

Adults should sleep between 7 to 9 hours per night for the most benefits possible. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can trigger a headache or migraine. On the flip side, sleeping too much can also trigger a migraine or headache. To avoid headaches from not enough or too much sleep, stick to a consistent sleep schedule and take a nap when necessary.

woman suffering from migraine while laying in bed

4. Caffeine Withdrawal

If you drink coffee every day and then suddenly stop, you can expect to experience a headache or migraine due to caffeine withdrawal. The reason you get a headache is that when you drink caffeine, it narrows the blood vessels in the brain. When you don’t drink caffeine, the blood vessels widen and cause too much blood flow. The increased blood flow causes the headache. If you drink caffeine regularly, don’t suddenly stop. Slowly decrease your intake to wean yourself off of it to avoid headaches.

5. Exertion

If you exercise too strenuously, have a serious coughing fit, or engage in sexual activity, you can experience an exertional headache. Exertion headaches cause moderate to severe pain that feels throbbing and usually occurs on one side of the head or the entire head. It can last for five minutes or as long as two days and start during exercise in some cases. Exertion headaches usually also have symptoms including vomiting, neck stiffness, double vision, and loss of consciousness. Exertion headaches typically respond well to over-the-counter pain medications. If these don’t help, talk to your doctor about a prescription.

6. Alcohol

If you drink too much alcohol without drinking enough water, it will cause you to become dehydrated which ultimately results in a severe headache, otherwise known as a hangover. Alcohol headaches are caused by drinking too much alcohol. You can avoid these by not drinking in excess and making sure you eat and drink plenty of water with your alcoholic beverages.

stress out man shows sits at his laptop, working

7. Stress

When you’re feeling stressed out, it’s common to experience a tension headache as a result. Stress doesn’t just stay locked away in your head. It affects the muscles in your scalp that go down your neck, face, and back. These muscles become tense and contract and as a result, a tension headache occurs.

8. TMJ Disorder

If you can’t figure out what the cause of your frequent headaches or migraines is, there’s a very good chance that it’s from TMJ disorder. TMJ disorders occur when the jaw joints have an imbalance. As a natural response to the imbalance, the surrounding muscles and tissues try to correct the issue and in the process, overexert themselves. This results in jaw, neck, and back pain, as well as frequent headaches and migraines. Only until you treat the TMJ disorder by rebalancing the jaw joints will you experience relief from frequent headaches and migraines.

9. Sleep Apnea

Another common cause of frequent headaches and migraines is untreated sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing multiple times per night. In the process, it can cause carbon dioxide to build up in your blood which can result in a headache upon waking. If your headaches and migraines usually occur first thing in the morning, it’s likely from sleep apnea or TMJ disorder. Fortunately, we offer treatments for both of these problems at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.

Contact our dental office to schedule an appointment by calling (408) 354-5600. Dr. Nehawandian will help you get diagnosed with TMJ or sleep apnea and then provide you with treatment that will help you put an end to frequent headaches and migraines in your life.