Improve Sleep Habits to Cut Migraines
Study Shows Headache Frequency and Intensity Decline as Sleep Improves
Changing Behavior continued...
All the women recorded their headaches in diaries.
"We instructed them to stop overusing medications," Calhoun says.
"About three-quarters of the 43 women were overusing medications."
While headache specialists point to medication overuse as a factor in
headaches becoming more chronic, "we feel there may be other important
factors involved in the transformation process," Calhoun says. "Sleep
problems may be one of these methods by which episodic headaches become
The women stayed on preventive medication throughout the study but were not
to overuse any medications. And when a headache struck, they were allowed to
use acute medication.
Better Sleep Habits, Less Pain
The results of improved sleep were seen fairly quickly. "At the first
follow-up visit at six weeks, 35% of the sleep habit-modification group
reverted from chronic headaches to episodic," Calhoun says. No one in the
control group reverted, however.
Then the women in the control group were switched over to the true
behavior-modification group for the rest of the study -- another six weeks. At
the end of the 12 weeks, 58% of the original behavior-modification group had
seen their headaches drop from chronic to episodic and 43% of the women who
were switched to the true behavior-modification group did, Calhoun says.
"It's a very difficult thing to get someone to revert," Calhoun
She found that paying attention to sleep habits appears to be an
all-or-nothing package to obtain improvement in headaches. "Of the people
who fixed all their sleep habits, only one did not revert to episodic." If
the women kept three or more bad sleep habits, they did not revert from chronic
Back to Basics?
The study underscores the need to pay attention to lifestyle, says Stephen
Silberstein, MD, president of the American Headache Society and professor of
neurology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
"We've known for a long time that going to bed at the right time [and]
getting up at the same time are things we have always taught our headache
patients to do [to avoid headaches]," Silberstein tells WebMD. "I think
it is a good study and it's important. What it really tells us is patients with
migraine need regularity in their lives."