Sleep and migraines – a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario?

A persistent headache or migraine can be a significant obstacle when it comes to nodding off, and some tend to occur specifically in association with sleep, making the situation even worse.

Migraines in particular occur most often between 4am and 9am and are common in shift-workers and those with jet lag, suggesting a link with sleep or circadian rhythms. Excessive sleepiness may also be a symptom that occurs just before or after a migraine attack.

Sleep and migraines

In turn, a lack of sleep is a common cause of headaches and a well known trigger of migraine attacks, leading to something of a “chicken and egg” scenario. Often, insomnia and migraine may co-exist, both being more likely as part of a post-concussion syndrome in people who sustain head injuries.

Please consult a doctor if you have had a concussion or after a head injury especially if you are exhibiting headaches/migraines after these events.

But if achieved, sleep can be an effective way to alleviate symptoms of a migraine, especially in children. It is possible that this is due to a regulatory effect that certain stages of sleep have on the blood flow in the brain.

If you experience migraines that are triggered by a lack of sleep, it is important to maintain good sleep rituals to try to avoid getting caught in a vicious cycle. Ensure that your bedroom is conducive to sleep, with black-out blinds, minimal noise, cool temperature, comfortable bedding, no TV and no clutter.

Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, exercise regularly – in the fresh air if possible, wind down by reading rather than watching TV before bed, and avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

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