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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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