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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Do Your Sleep Habits Trigger Migraines?

Research suggests a link between sleep problems and migraines.

Sleep Problems With Migraines: Do You Need a Sleep Study?

While researchers are still trying to determine the connection between sleep habits and migraine, REM sleep abnormalities have been implicated in a variety of problems, including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Sleep problems are also common in those with fibromyalgia, which is characterized by its deep muscle pain, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Coincidentally, migraines are common in those with fibromyalgia, with 50% to 75% of sufferers also reporting migraine headaches.

If your doctor suspects you might have sleep problems such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, or other sleep problems, your doctor may recommend a sleep study or polysomnography. With a sleep study, sleep specialists evaluate your sleep habits at an overnight facility, administering ongoing tests, including an electroencephalogram (EEG), which monitors electrical activity of the brain, oxygen levels, airflow, and other physiological functions.

How You Can Manage Sleep Problems With Migraines

Drugs, stress, and excessive noise can affect daily body rhythms, mood, and sleep, Fieve tells WebMD. He encourages patients to evaluate their lifestyle habits and sleep hygiene to make sure their body is prepared for rest.

  • Start by giving yourself a fighting chance for rest: Turn off the lights, the TV, and the laptop when you're getting ready for bed.
  • Eliminate caffeine from your diet.
  • Try exercising regularly in the morning or afternoon (but not near bedtime; it can actually wake you up).
  • Eat dinner at least three hours before you get in bed. Some experts recommend a snack high in carbohydrates such as cereal and milk, or a bagel, which may induce sleep by boosting levels of serotonin.

Above all, talk to your doctor, the best health care professional to advise you on lifestyle habits and medication that can help you manage your migraines and end your sleep problems.

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Reviewed on December 20, 2007

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