Going to sleep is a hard thing to do for many migraine sufferers. Insomnia is a common side effect of lots of types of migraines; a third of 169 sufferers examined in a 2005 study had symptoms of insomnia. This problem can get worse if you are then worry about it, or worry about falling asleep. And if you are one of the many who can wake up after a night of sleep to discover that you have developed a migraine overnight, the fear of falling asleep is very real; you don’t want to fall asleep for fear that you’ll wake up with a migraine, this lack of sleep then leads to a migraine – catch 22. However, since there are some sleeping habits that commonly lead to migraines, there are things that you can do!
First off, don’t take long naps during the day. The deepest stages of sleep (stages 3 and 4) are the ones that enable production of serotonin and dopamine – both feel good neurotransmitters. A decrease in either of these is linked to poor sleep and problems going to sleep. Stages 3 and 4 of sleep are reached after approximately 20-30 minutes of sleep, so any nap lasting for less than this time may be a bad idea as it can make you less tired when it gets to bedtime and so makes it harder for you to fall asleep at the time when you need to.
Next, if you find that you are waking up with teeth that ache, you may well be clenching them in your sleep. This will increase the tension in your muscles and this build-up of tension can trigger a migraine. In order to stop clenching your teeth in your sleep you may find that you need to visit your dentist and ask for a mouth guard in order to prevent this. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and muscle-relaxation exercises may also help.
One cause of migraines is dilating/constricting blood vessels, and changes in temperature can contribute to this. With this in mind, you may find that going to sleep with a warm pack or a cool pack on your head/under your pillow may help to guard against this. Try both to see which helps you more. It may also be that the body’s natural lowering of body temperature at night is leaving your head too cold, so wearing a light cap at night might be beneficial.
Another good thing to do is to to help guard against night time migraines is to eat a snack which is high in carbohydrates (e.g. cereal or a bagel etc) just before bed. The slow release energy will help to maintain your blood sugar levels overnight and will help to prevent a migraine which is triggered by a sudden dip in these levels. A common cause of migraines during the day is not eating regularly enough or skipping meals; the same is true at night.
And finally, when you do wake up, resist the urge to press the snooze button. Using the snooze button allows you a few more minutes of light, interrupted sleep (not the kind you need), but can leave you feeling more exhausted than if you hadn’t used it at all. It may not be easy, but it’s best to just get up when your alarm goes off.
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