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Is Your Morning Headache a Sign of a Brain Tumor?

Is Your Morning Headache a Sign of a Brain Tumor?

We’ve all woken up to it – that relentless head-throbbing with each heart pulsation, that dull, perpetual ache, or even that recurring cranial stab. Whichever form it may take, a morning headache is miserable and often unnerving, making waking up the last thing you want to do.

Beyond their undeniable discomfort, morning headaches possess an additional adverse layer as they are one of the primary symptoms of brain tumors. But do not stress, while brain tumors may be a potential cause for your nagging headache, it is much more likely caused by other sources. In fact, according to the National Brain Tumor Society, about 700,000 or 22% of people in the United States are currently living with a brain tumor while the incidence rate for headaches is estimated to be 78% of the total population (National Brain Tumor Society). Further, 1 in every 4,000 children with headaches is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

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So if your headache is not caused by a brain tumor, what is the instigator of all that pain? One possible cause is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by pauses in breathing patterns throughout sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a couple seconds to several minutes, and can occur as often as 30 times in a single hour (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute).

There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea syndrome (Mayo Clinic). Obstructive is the most common form and occurs when muscles in the throat relax, causing the airway to collapse or become blocked in the middle of sleeping (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute). Central sleep apnea is a result of improper signaling from the brain to muscles responsible for breathing and complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central.

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Aside from chronic morning headaches, common symptoms of sleep apnea include (Mayo Clinic):

  • Snoring
  • Sudden awakenings
  • Waking with dry mouth
  • Waking with sore throat
  • Insomnia (difficulties remaining asleep)
  • Exhaustion throughout the day
  • Attention deficits
  • Irritability
  • Episodes of breathing disruption observed by another individual

Morning headaches in addition to some or all of the symptoms listed above, can most likely be attributed to sleep apnea. While highly unlikely, there remains some potential that morning headaches and sleep apnea may be due to a brain tumor. However, this occasionally can be distinguished from standard headaches. Here are a few indicators of when to be concerned:

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  • Experiencing numbness or weakness in limbs
  • Visual disturbances
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Difficulty in speech and word choice
  • Headaches are new
  • Headaches worsen over the course of several days, weeks or months
  • Headaches start first thing in the morning and get better as the day goes

If any of the above symptoms accompany your morning headaches, physicians at the UC Irvine Health Comprehensive Brain Tumor program recommend seeking examination from a neurologist. If not, the cause is likeIy to be uncancerous, although brain tumors do not always present the same symptoms. In fact, up to 60% of individuals with brain tumors do not even experience headaches (CNN).

Even if the causes of morning headaches may not be life-threatening, they still can impact daily functioning and therefore can impede with quality of life. Some possible solutions for morning headaches(National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mayo Clinic)

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  • Certain lifestyle changes (i.e. quitting use of harmful substances, weight loss)
  • Switching pillows or mattresses
  • Maintaining a healthy and consistent sleep-wake cycle
  • Taking a warm bath

Aside from sleep apnea and brain tumors, morning headaches can be caused by numerous other including but not limited to: blood pressure issues, chronic tension, migraine headaches, stress, withdrawal from medications or recreational drugs, and many more (Weil). Ultimately, if you’re experiencing morning headaches there is likely a benign or less severe underlying reason than a brain tumor. According to CNN News, 99% of the time you’re experiencing a headache, it’s not a brain tumor (CNN).

Featured photo credit: Castelli Law via castellilaw.com

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Lindsay Benster

Student pursuing a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of San Diego

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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