Morning Headaches Linked to Depression

Frequent Morning Headaches May Be Sign of Mental Disorder

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 12, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 12, 2004 -- Frequent morning headaches may be a sign of more than just poor sleeping habits. A new study shows that chronic morning headaches are frequently associated with depression and anxiety disorders.

Researchers say waking up with a headache has traditionally been associated with sleep disorders, such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and snoring. But until now researchers didn't know how common the problem was in the general population or if it was associated with other conditions.

Morning Headaches Are a Common Problem

In the study, published in the Jan. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers surveyed a representative sample of 18,980 people in several European countries and asked them about morning headaches, mental and sleep disorders, use of alcohol or drugs, and other illnesses.

They found morning headaches affect about one in 13 people over 15 years of age. Overall, 7.6% of those surveyed said they suffered from morning headaches, with 1.3% reporting them daily and 4.4% saying they had them "often."

The study also showed that morning headaches were slightly more common in women than in men and in people between 45 and 64 years old.

In addition researchers found that people with anxiety and depressive disorders were much more likely than others to report chronic morning headaches. Nearly 29% of those with depression or anxiety disorders said they also suffered from frequent morning headaches.

Morning headaches were also about twice as common among people with insomnia or a sleep disordered breathing condition.

Researchers say the findings show that a variety of factors may be involved in causing morning headaches, and they are not limited to sleep disorders.