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How to Sleep When You Have Migraines
You wake to a splitting, throbbing pain throughout your head. You are exhausted and in pain; wondering was it something I ate last night? Am I dehydrated?
Waking up with a headache is hardly how you want to start your day.
Migraines are far from an uncommon occurrence. In fact, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, 39 million people experience migraines on a frequent basis (1).
For some, quality sleep can be burdensome at times. Then add migraines to the equation, and all hope can feel lost.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
By changing simple lifestyle habits, you can start to reduce those nagging headaches and improve your sleep.
The Link Between Sleep and Migraines
According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine sufferers are 2-8 times more likely to experience difficulty sleeping (2).
What causes migraines vary between individuals, but both migraines and sleep share an anatomical connection. They both begin down in the brainstem and spread up the thalamus, hypothalamus, and cortex.
It’s through this shared pathway that scientists are starting to find common connections that sleep and migraines share.
Chronic migraines are often a result of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep deprivation, according to the American Headache Society (3). Being sleep deprived changes the levels of key proteins, which play a central role in the formation of migraines.
How Do Migraines Affect Your Daily Life?
The biggest complaint among migraine sufferers is insomnia. In a 2005 study, the journal Headache found that over a third of individuals with migraines reported getting only six hours of sleep on a nightly basis (4)!
This is problematic because if you’re not sleeping enough you become sleep deprived which leads to a slew of other issues, such as fatigue. With low energy, it’s difficult to enjoy all that life have to offer; and next-to-impossible to achieve a high level of professional success.
In addition to having a lack of energy, individuals with migraines are often more prone to anxiety or depressive symptoms.
However, there are ways to improve your sleep quality, thus reducing your migraine symptoms...
How to Reduce Migraine Symptoms and Sleep Better
Improving your sleep not only results in more energy the next day, but it also reduces migraine pain. Reducing the frequency and intensity of those migraines starts with changing up these three habits:
1. Create a Pre-Sleep Routine
The hardest part of getting to sleep is actually shutting down for the night. And for many people, the biggest obstacle to shutting down is stress.
The National Headache Foundation found that stress is the most commonly recognized trigger of headaches (5). Being a migraine sufferer often means you tend to be highly emotionally responsive.
It’s imperative to calm your mind and body down after a long, busy workday. One simple habit that can lower your stress and increase your likelihood for better sleep, is to establish a bedtime routine.
2. Create a Calming Sleep Environment
Did you know: the ideal bedroom temperature should be between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (6). If the temperature drops too cold, that can induce a tension headache.
It’s also important to keep your bedroom free of clutter and visual distractions. In addition, keep your room as dark as possible. This can be achieved with blackout curtains and learning how to wear a sleep mask.
By keeping the room quiet and dark, you can help eliminate any potential stress or anxiety flaring up and causing migraines.
3. Be Mindful of Food & Drink Consumption
Consuming sugar, grease, or alcohol near bedtime interferes with your sleep. Not only that, but those three things can also lead to migraines!
Neurology did a study in 2004 and found that daily caffeine consumption is directly linked with chronic headaches (7). Alcohol is another contributor to headaches, because it dehydrates you.
To help lessen the chances of intense headaches and poor sleep, drink plenty of water and be mindful to not become caffeine-dependent to drinks, like coffee. Lastly, cut off drinking any fluids 60-90 minutes before bed.
Having a Migraine Doesn't Mean Restless Nights
Many migraine sufferers feel that getting a quality night’s sleep is an impossible mission; but you’re not helpless– by committing to good sleeping habits, quality sleep is possible
Remember: the best way to alleviate the pain from migraines is to get some quality sleep!
Like this article? You may find this one helpful, too: How to Sleep When Allergies Hit.
(1) "About Migraine." Migraine Research Foundation, www.migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.
(2) Rains, Jeanetta PhD. “Sleep Disorders and Headache." American Migraine Foundation, www.americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/sleep/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.
(3) American Headache Society. “REM sleep deprivation plays a role in chronic migraine.” Science Daily, 23 Jun. 2010, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100623085528.htm
(4) The Headache Center of Atlanta. "Headache and sleep: examination of sleep patterns and complaints in a large clinical sample of migraineurs." Headache, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15985108. Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.
(5) "Stress." National Headache Foundation, www.headaches.org/2007/10/25/stress/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.
(6) "The Ideal Temperature for Sleep." Sleep.org, www.sleep.org/articles/temperature-for-sleep/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.
(7) Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. "Caffeine as a risk factor for chronic daily headache: a population-based study." Neurology, 14 Dec. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15596744