Sleep disorders and migraine go hand in hand. People with migraine are between two and eight times more likely to develop a sleep disorder. It’s important to treat sleep problems, since sleep deprivation makes migraine worse in intensity and frequency, which often begins a vicious cycle: Migraine begets poor sleep, and poor sleep begets worsening migraine.
How’s your sleep been lately? Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, you may be experiencing migraine and sleep issues.
Do any of these sleep disorders describe your nights?
Insomnia and Migraines
Insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; waking up too early; or having non-refreshing sleep for three nights per week or more, for at least six months — all of which are common for people with migraine. People with chronic migraine (15 headache days per month or more) experience insomnia almost twice as much as those with episodic migraine (14 days per month or less).
Effective treatments for insomnia include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Stress reduction techniques like relaxation training
- Good sleep hygiene
- The nutritional supplement melatonin.
Restless Leg Syndrome and Migraines
Restless legs syndrome is characterized by an uncomfortable, irresistible urge to move the legs. It occurs in the evening or at night. It can wake you from sleep or keep you awake. You may even have limb movements while asleep, worsening your quality of sleep.
Restless legs may come with pregnancy or be an indication of iron deficiency. Antidepressants and anti-nausea medications that are often used for migraine treatment can make it worse.
Effective treatments for restless legs syndrome include:
- Medications taken at bedtime
- Walking or stretching
- Behavioral treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), which can improve associated symptoms like anxiety and poor sleep quality.
Sleep Apnea and Migraines
Sleep apnea can cause a wake-up headache, worsen migraine, or both. People with sleep apnea have pauses in their breathing while asleep, with subtle wakeups that reduce the efficiency of sleep, and therefore tend to be exhausted by day. Men are more than twice as likely to have sleep-related breathing disorders as women.
Diagnosing sleep apnea is important because good treatment is available, which can reduce migraine severity — and yield other health benefits, as well, like lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Effective treatments for sleep apnea include:
- Lifestyle changes like physical exercise and weight loss
- The use of a breathing assistance machine at night, such as a CPAP.
Snoring and Migraines
Primary snoring is also associated with worse migraine. Unlike sleep apnea, it’s unclear whether treating snoring will help migraine. Still, it’s best to get treatment. Your family (or neighbors) will thank you.
Effective treatments for snoring include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight or adjusting your sleep position
- Anti-snoring mouthpieces.
Hope For Those With Sleep Problems and Migraine
Unfortunately, sleep disorders and migraine headaches are fellow travelers. But take heart: Not only are sleep disorders entirely treatable, but improving your sleep quality is the most impactful lifestyle modification you can make toward improving your migraine. If you have sleep problems and migraine, making healthy changes to your sleep can be a starting point for your journey toward feeling better.
Developed in partnership with the Jefferson Headache Clinic, the Ctrl M Health app can help put control back in reach. Tap into a wealth of information on topics like migraine and sleep, nutrition for migraine, and more. Click here to break the cycle of migraine, and begin living the way you want.