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Hypnic headaches are otherwise known as “alarm clock headaches”

Hypnic headaches are a rare form of headache, which occur only at night time and wake you from your sleep.

Prevalence

Due to the rarity of the disorder, the exact prevalence is unknown. Most reported cases are in people who are over 50, but there have been some cases over 40. It is more common in women.

They are currently thought to be associated with REM sleep but more evidence is needed.

Symptoms

  • Unilateral or bilateral pain; often throbbing
  • Lasting between 15 minutes to 6 hours; commonly 30-60 minutes
  • Associated with a blocked nose or watery eyes
  • Sensitivity to light or sound

Some patients report more than one attack per night, and up to 15 per month. The lack of sleep associated with these headaches can cause major disruption to function at home and work, as well as socially.

Diagnosis

Most patients experiencing these symptoms will visit a doctor first, who will carefully examine sleep patterns. After which, the patient may be referred for certain tests and imaging to rule out any more sinister causes. As hypnic headaches are quite rare, it can take time before this diagnosis is achieved.

Treatment

The Watson Headache Certified Approach can also be used to treat people with hypnic headaches, using the same methods behind desensitising the brainstem. Another recommendation for people suffering from these headaches is to consume caffeine prior to sleeping. However, there is little evidence currently about why or how this works.

More diagnostic and treatment options should become available as more research is done into this rare condition.

References

The Migraine Trust, 2019. Hypnic Headache. Retrieved from https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of-migraine/other-headache-disorders/hypnic-headache/