We know that sleep – how much we get, and what kind of quality the sleep is – plays a big role in migraine onset and control. It’s often cited that lack of sleep, too much sleep, or a change in sleeping habits can be a migraine trigger for many migraine sufferers.
However, a new study has found that rather than a night of disturbed sleep leading to a migraine attack the day after, a night of fragmented sleep results in a higher risk of experiencing a migraine the day after that.
Dr. Suzanne Bertisch, a physician and clinical investigator in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston Massachusetts, was the lead author of the study which was recently published in the journal Neurology.
The study lasted for six weeks and involved 98 adults. The average age of the participants was 35, and they all experienced migraine episodes on a regular basis, but for fewer than 15 days per month.
The participants were asked to complete electronic diaries twice a day, and they had objective actigraphy measures of their sleep analysed. (Actigraphy is where a small recording device is worn (usually on the wrist) to record limb movement. This recorded data is then subjected to a proprietary algorithm to produce estimates of sleep-wake variations.)
The participants experienced a total of 870 migraine episodes throughout the study. This gave researchers plenty of data to work with, and, after adjusting for variables such as stress levels, caffeine intake, exercise, and day of the week, they were able to identify some interesting results.
Sleeping for less than six and a half hours per night did not, as some might expect, correlate with having a migraine attack the next day, or the day after that. Neither did having a poor quality of sleep. However, low sleep efficiency (lying in bed trying to sleep but being unable to do so) and fragmented sleep was associated with a 39% higher chance of experiencing a migraine, not on the day immediately following the fragmented sleep, but on the day after that.
The study authors concluded that further research will need to be conducted in order to “understand the clinical and neurobiological implications of sleep fragmentation and risk of migraine”.