Migraines and their Impact on Sleep Quality

Posted by Darian Dozier on Mar 1, 2022 12:49:00 PM

Add a heading-Dec-06-2021-09-20-00-43-PM

Migraines affect a large portion of the population, even requiring some to take time off work. Migraines can also be a huge disability and negatively impact the life of those who have severe migraines. Migraines also impact sleep quality and REM sleep, both of which are important for improving mood, energy, focus and other positive aspects of one's day. Continue reading to find out more. 

What are Migraines 

Migraines are a type of recurring headache. Thye cause moderate to severe pain that is throbbing or pulsing. This pain is on one side of the head and there may also be other symptoms like nausea and weakness. You may also be sensitive to light and sound. 

Genetics play a large role in the cause of migraines including other factors: 

  • Stress 
  • Anxiety
  • Hormonal changes in women 
  • Bright or flashing lights 
  • Loud noises 
  • Strong smells 
  • Medicines 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Sudden changes in weather or environment 
  • Overexertion 
  • Tobacco 
  • Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal 
  • Skipped meals 
  • Medication overuse

There are also certain foods or ingredients that can trigger headaches, especially when they are combined with other triggers. These foods and ingredients include: 

  • Alcohol 
  • Chocolate 
  • Aged cheese 
  • Monosodium glutamate 
  • Some fruits and nuts 
  • Fermented or pickled goods 
  • Yeast 
  • Cured or processed meats 

There are some risk factors for migraines including being a woman, having a family history of migraines, or having other medical conditions. 

The symptoms of a migraine include a prodrome, early symptoms before a migraine signaling it's impending presence, aura which are flashing or bright lights that can happen right before a migraine, and a headache which normally starts as gradual and becomes more severe. A postdrome follows the headache and you may feel exhausted, weak and confused after a migraine. This can last up to a day. 

Migraines and Sleep Quality and REM Sleep 

Migraines can be so severe, that it can be difficult to get adequate sleep. One study actually found that those who experience migraines may have debilitating effects and can affect an individual's sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in severity and frequency of migraines. 

A recent meta-analysis published in Neurology explored migraine sufferers' perceived sleep quality as well as their sleep architecture which is how a person's brain proceeds through sleep stages. 

They found that those who experience migraines may achieve less REM sleep than those who don't have migraines.  Migraine sufferers may also experience diminished subjective sleep quality. They felt as if they slept worse than their peers and they spent less total sleep time in REM than the healthy control group. 

Children who were suffering from migraines had less total sleep time, more wake time and shorter time for sleep onset than children without migraines. These findings show that sleep should play an integrated role in migraine treatment and the importance of assessing and treating sleep as an integrated part of migraine treatment.  

How to Improve Sleep 

It may be difficult to get adequate sleep with migraines, but there are a few ways to improve sleep and reduce the severity of migraines. Reducing stress is a great way to both reduce severity and increase sleep quality. Meditation, yoga, warm baths, or just enjoying time sitting and doing a quiet activity with family can reduce stress right before bed. 

Also, as difficult as it may be, it's important to try and go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. This can help to regulate your sleep schedule and hopefully regulate the release of hormones that can help you go to sleep and wake up like melatonin and cortisol. 

Making sure you have a great sleep environment may also help. Complete darkness, a cool room and no sound can help to maintain sleep throughout the night and hopefully help you cycle through the sleep stages appropriately. 

If you are still having trouble getting a good night of sleep, please click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and speak with a sleep professional. 

Take a Free Online Sleep Test



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