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    The effect of sleep on headaches

    The Effect of Sleep on Headaches

    Sleep is an essential part of our everyday lives and one of our most basic human needs. During the time while we are asleep, our brains are very active. It is a time when they are able to rejuvenate, consolidate memories, and sort through a whole days’ worth of information ready to start again in the morning.

    For the body, sleep is a time for recovery and repair. Sleep can have a great impact on our overall quality of life.


    In this guide

    How long should I be sleeping for?

    Whilst everyone needs a slightly different amount of sleep to function properly, most adults need around 7–9 hours of good quality sleep a night.

    Not enough sleep

    A lack of sleep has effects on our brain's ability to function and it can cause all sorts of issues such as low mood.

    So, can not getting enough sleep leave us with a headache? Yes - research has shown that those who slept an average of only six hours tend to have significantly more frequent and severe headaches than those who got a longer sleep1.

    Too much sleep

    Whilst not getting enough sleep is well known to trigger headaches, perhaps surprisingly, sleeping too much may also have an effect. Rather than spending your whole weekend asleep in bed, why not just try to relax your body whilst you’re awake – you could try yoga or meditation.

    Relaxing before bed

    Reduce Screen Time: The rise of the use of electronic handheld devices from e-readers to smartphones, screen time before bed has been making it increasingly hard to fall asleep. As well as reducing sleeping times the light emitted from these devices may affect your circadian rhythm (your pattern of sleep and awake).

    Relax before bedtime: For example, take a warm bath or try relaxation exercises such as meditation, mindful breathing or conscious relaxation (relaxing every part of your body from the toes up).

    Organise Your Thoughts: Try dedicating 30 minutes ‘worry time’ well before bed – then when you are going to sleep you can remind yourself all your worrying has been done already!

    Have some warm milk: Obviously, having a caffeinated beverage before bed can keep you up at night, but a nice warm cup of milk contains a sleep enhancing amino acid. Why not try these tips tonight and over the next week? Soon enough you should start to see a difference in the quality of your sleep.

    If a headache is a reason your sleep is being disturbed, pain relief medication may be required to help relieve the pain. Ibuprofen is one such pain reliever medication. It acts by alleviating pain, fever, and inflammation. Nurofen provides temporary relief of pain associated with headaches (including migraine and tension headaches), sinus, and other pain such as period pain and backache.

    Important information

    This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

    This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.


    1. Kelman and Rains, 2005.

    In this guide