What is Hypnic Headache & How is it Treated?

What is Hypnic Headache?

Hypnic Headache is an extremely rare form of headache disorder which happens usually in people above the age of 50. Hypnic headache usually begins in the night after an individual has gone to sleep and tends to wake the individual up from sleep. Hypnic Headache may also occur in the daytime when the individual is having a nap and also may awaken the individual.

Since Hypnic Headache is extremely rare hence not much research has been done for this condition and very little information is available, when compared to other headache disorders like migraine headaches.

What is Hypnic Headache?

What are the Symptoms of Hypnic Headache?

The classic presenting feature of Hypnic Headache is that it always occurs when the individual is asleep meaning either at night or during the daytime when the individual is taking a nap. Hypnic Headache tends to occur almost at the same time everyday generally when the individual has been sleeping for at least three to four hours.

The pain caused by Hypnic Headache can be unilateral or bilateral. In some cases, the pain may be throbbing in quality but this is not the case for everyone. The pain may peak in half an hour and may last anywhere from one to six hours, although in some cases individual get complete relief from Hypnic Headache within 15 minutes of its onset.

Hypnic Headache is seen more in females than in males. In rare cases photophobia and phonophobia may be associated with Hypnic Headache. In majority of the cases, the affected individual is able to go back to sleep after the pain subsides after suffering from a bout of Hypnic Headache.

Generally an individual will have only one attack of Hypnic Headache in a night but in some cases people have reported multiple attacks as well of Hypnic Headache.

How is Hypnic Headache Diagnosed?

In order to confirmatively diagnose Hypnic Headache, the physician will first take a detailed history of the patient inquiring about the sleep patterns of the patient along with any history of snoring or not having a restful sleep. This will rule out any secondary causes to the headaches that the patient is experiencing such as sleep apnea, drug withdrawal, tumors, or a condition called temporal arteritis.

Additionally, the physician will perform tests to rule out other headache disorders like migraines which also tend to wake patients at night. Once all these conditions are ruled out, then a definitive diagnosis is made of Hypnic Headache.

How is Hypnic Headache Treated?

It is believed that caffeine is the best form of treatment for Hypnic Headache. An individual can take a cup of coffee at bedtime or Indocin to prevent occurrences of Hypnic Headache. For people taking Indocin it is highly recommended that they should not take this medication if there is a history of stomach ulcers.

Lithium is yet another effective way of treating Hypnic Headache but this medication is poorly tolerated and also if the patient is on lithium then he or she needs to be monitored closely for lithium toxicity with serial blood tests. Flunarizine is yet another medication quite effective for Hypnic Headache and is used as an alternative for lithium. This can be taken at bedtime to prevent occurrences of Hypnic Headache.

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