Why do some people get headache after a nap?

Why do some people get headache after a nap?

Last Reviewed : 12/25/2020
Why do some people get headache after a nap?

Sometimes, when you wake after a nap you notice that you have a slight headache. Truly, waking up with a headache is not something that anyone wants. It is rather frustrating when you want to start your day feeling fresh after having a long, busy work the previous day. Sleep is meant to give rest to the body as well as increase productivity. It also helps you to concentrate and focus at work. But if it does the opposite like causing headaches and making the person feel grumpy, the main aim of sleep is defeated.

Additionally, sleep helps you improve memory, productivity, alertness and mental function. It also promotes co-ordination, improves motor activities, effective against cardiovascular diseases and relieves stress. Before looking into why a person experiences headache after a nap, let’s understand the physiology of sleep.

Headache and Sleep Physiology

Sleep is divided into two distinct states, REM (Paradoxical/Desynchronized) sleep and Non-REM (NREM) sleep.

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. It is characterized by saccadic eye movements, dreaming which are absent in NREM sleep. On the other hand, NREM, on the basis of EEG pattern, is divided into four stages with stages 3 and 4 being into deep sleep where the body recovers. This alternate cycle of REM and NREM repeats throughout the night until one wakes up.

Headache after a nap is due to being awakened from deep sleep. It is because the body doesn’t get enough time to rest or recover which happens during the deep stages of sleep. In contrast, if we wake up during the REM or initial stages of sleep, this doesn’t occur and you wake up feeling fresh without any headache. This phenomenon of going into deep sleep but failing to continue the sleep cycle is called sleep inertia.

Maximizing your Sleep

Sleep inertia is important among those who frequently take power naps to relieve some stress and improve productivity. It can be prevented by scheduling naps such that one wakes up before going into deep sleep. The average duration required to go into deep stages is 20 minutes. So if one could wake up before 20 minutes of sleep, he would not experience headaches and grogginess. 

Other reasons could also be due to irregular timings of sleep and sleep deficit. Dehydration and Hypoglycemia may equally contribute to it. Power naps of 20 minutes duration can prevent headaches after nap. So, keep yourself hydrated. Coffee can also help if taken before going to sleep. Maintain a strict sleep schedule and a healthy diet.


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