Night Terrors, Migraines, and Insomnia- 7 Nightmare Headaches

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Night terrors often result from sleep apnea, stress, post-concussion syndrome, cluster headaches, or migraine headaches. Frequent sleep terrors cause insomnia, stress, and anxiety, leading to more migraine headache symptoms.


What are night terrors?

Have you ever woken up in the middle of a night and felt an odd sensation of falling backwards?  Some people wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, jerked awake by a frightening dream, feeling of impending doom, or a migraine headache.  Mostly, night terrors happen to children, but a small percentage of adults also suffer from frequent- and disconcerting- sleep terrors.

What causes night terrors?

Children may experience night terrors from nightmares, anxiety, fever, noise, or bedwetting.  However, when adults experience night terrors, it is usually a result of some influencing factor.  Some causes of night terrors in adults include the following:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress, anxiety, or panic disorder
  • Head injuries
  • Drug interaction, including alcohol, street drugs, antihistamines, sleeping pills, and beta-blockers
  • Migraine headaches



1) Migraine headaches

Characterized by throbbing head pain on one side of the head, other migraine symptoms include nausea, stomach cramping, visual distortions (migraine with aura), light sensitivity, and partial paralysis.  Migraine attacks last for several hours, and possibly days.  A night terror migraine may occur during the sleep stage 3 or sleep stage 4, or during REM sleep.

2) Cluster headaches

Nighttime cluster headaches cause intense pain on one side of the head, often felt behind the eye, temple, or cheekbone.  Other symptoms of cluster headache include tearing at the eyes, stuffy nose, and profuse sweating at the hairline.  A cluster headache attack strikes suddenly and vanishes suddenly, and generally lasts no longer than a few hours.  Cluster headaches occur repeatedly in one 24-hour period, often striking consistently at the same time of day or evening.  Cluster headache sufferers who experience nighttime attacks awaken with night terrors, causing them to feel fatigued and stressed during the day.

Is it a Cluster Headache or a Migraine?

3) Hypnic headaches

If you wake up early in the morning to a rude headache, then you might be suffering from hypnic headaches.  Hypnic headaches are painful, but not symptomatic of any physical damage.  Hypnic headaches usually last about one hour, and might occur because of a bad dream or early morning sleep terror.

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4) Hypnic jerks

Hypnic jerks, or exploding head syndrome , are night terrors that often occur just as you’re drifting off to sleep, though they can also occur during any other sleep stage, including REM.  Symptoms of exploding head syndrome include strong involuntary muscular twitches, unusual head sounds (cracking, popping, gunshot or explosions), sensation of “falling,” and brief lightning flashes, or aura.  Unlike with hypnic headaches, hypnic jerks are not associated with head pain.



5) Chronic Paroxysmal Hemicrania (CPH)

Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania is similar to migraine headache, and causes a series of sharp, intense jabs of head pain in a row.  Unlike cluster headaches, which may last hours, CPH head pain is shorter in duration.  Like cluster headaches, chronic paroxysmal hemicrania occurs at the same time each day, usually in the night hours, causing night terrors.

6) Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder headaches

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder headaches are associated with bruxism; symptoms include involuntary teeth clenching and grinding, during both the day and night, resulting in jaw pain, headache, and muscular tension.  TMJ disorder usually results from stress, but may also signify a misshapen jaw line.  Nighttime teeth grinding occurs during stages 1 and stage 2 of sleep.  People who suffer from chronic bruxism might awaken in the middle of the night with severe headache, disorientation, and anxiety.

Is it Migraine or TMJ Headache? Temporomandibular Disorder

7) Post-Concussion Syndrome

Somebody who has suffered a head injury, such as a concussion, is often prone to night terrors caused by memory loss, anxiety, depression, nervousness, or other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Also read:

Are Sleep Seizures, Exploding Head Noises Causing Insomnia?


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