A Head Start In The Morning

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This article has been reproduced by kind permission of The Mail on Sunday YOU Magazine.

A reader asks why she often wakes up with a headache. ‘I wake at the usual time and feel I have slept enough but the pain can be quite disabling. I have to take OTC painkillers regularly which I’d prefer not to do.’

According to a recent study, about one in 13 people suffer from chronic morning headaches, which affect them at least 15 mornings in every calendar month.

There’s several possible causes. The simplest is dehydration: not drinking enough water through the day (or too much alcohol) can result in a headache when you wake. Although sipping water at night can mean a trip to the loo, that’s usually preferable to waking with a splitting head. Sleeping badly is linked to morning (tiredness) headaches, so it’s best to avoid drinking anything with caffeine from teatime on (coffee, tea, colas etc), and not to eat sugary things. A noisy environment – particularly a snoring partner – won’t help, so try ear plugs (the foam ones suit most people best).

Restless leg syndrome, the creepy crawly sensation in your limbs that affects many women around menopause, provokes tossing and turning: taking magnesium before bed has helped many (try Dynomins Magnesium, £14.60 for 90 tablets). Congested sinuses are another factor: if you prefer natural remedies try Plantago Tincture (£9.15 for 50ml). A friend reports that Sinose nasal spray, £10.30, cleared her nose and stopped a migraine headache in its tracks.

Unfortunately taking painkillers (especially those containing caffeine or codeine) can itself cause ongoing headaches, known as medication overuse or rebound headaches. A friend who suffered constantly found that when he stopped munching several Solpadeine a day, his crippling morning headaches disappeared. Weaning yourself off analgesia can be easier with 4head, a natural topical remedy containing a type of mint which helps block pain signals and relax the muscles in the head (£6.10 for 3g wind-up stick).

In the experience of London-based chiropractor Dominic Cheetham (sloanesquarechiropractors.com, tel: 020 7731 3031), many patients with morning headaches clench and grind their teeth at night. ‘Most people do this at some point, commonly due to anxiety. Occasional teeth grinding doesn’t usually cause harm but on a regular basis, it not only damages teeth but can cause headaches due to the constant movements of the mouth and jaw muscles. The pain typically travels from around the eyes and temples and jaw to the back of the head and neck. Also, the muscles are the same as you use to eat so that may feel sore too.’ Dominic refers patients to a dentist too. Sometimes a device to stop grinding is recommended.

He adds that ‘poor sleep, morning headaches and persistent neck pain can be due to an unsupportive pillow that puts strain on the muscles and joints of the neck. Sleeping on your front can also cause neck strain.’ An orthopaedic pillow may help or if you don’t get on with those, tuck a soft squishy pillow under your neck so it’s really supported.

Because stress and anxiety are both linked to poor sleep and so to morning headaches, adopting a nursery-type approach to sleep helps many. Winding down gently is vital and several readers have reported that meditating or practising yoga for a few minutes before bed has helped significantly.

If simple measures don’t help or if you have a sudden debilitating morning headache, do consult your doctor.

Help Your Legs Go The Distance

A tip for journeys: increase the blood circulation in your legs when you’re sitting for four hours or more with the Airogym Exerciser. This simple, pocket-sized gizmo, endorsed by consultant vascular surgeon John Scurr, inflates to an oblong cushion which you pump up and down. It may also help the elderly and/or immobile, diabetics who tend to have poor leg circulation, swollen ankles especially during pregnancy and people with muscle or joint pains. £11.99 from Victoria Health.

Beat The Rash

If you love gardening, please don’t forget to wear long thick gloves and preferably long sleeves and long trousers with socks. A whole host of plants can cause sensitivity reactions if they come into contact with bare skin, especially in people who are prone to eczema or atopic dermatitis. The symptoms are usually mild, such as itching and rashes, but in a few susceptible people the symptoms may cause swelling in the throat, lungs or gastrointestinal tract (anaphylactic shock), which needs urgent medical attention. That’s a go-straight-to-hospital situation.

Blog of the week: sophiefeelsbetter.blogspot.com

Inspiring, practical and compulsively readable, this blog by 31 year old breast cancer patient Sophie Beresiner will make you laugh, cry and admire unreservedly. She reports on her treatment and, as a stylist and beauty editor, offers advice for all the beauty challenges it brings from wigs to skincare.

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