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Will Better Sleep Ease My Migraines?

Medically Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on February 28, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Living with migraines can be a vicious cycle of stress, pain, and poor sleep. That’s not good, since lack of shuteye can make you up to eight times more likely to have one of these headaches. The good news is that you can find ways to get better rest -- and keep the pain at bay.

Migraines and Sleep

Sleep problems and migraines often are linked. If you don’t get enough rest, or if you wake up often, you may have more headaches and they could hurt worse. Get more than 8 hours a night and it could have the same effect.

 

Treating your particular sleep problem may help your headaches. Ask your doctor what you can do. Some drugs have side effects that can make you drowsy; others make you hyper. If you use an over-the-counter sleep or pain reliever headache too often you could get what’s called a rebound headache -- where the medicine dulls your pain for a while, but the migraine comes right back when it wears off.

 

 

Stay on Schedule

You may have fewer or less painful migraines if you eat, drink, sleep, and wake up at the same time every day. Stay on schedule as much as possible. If you drink coffee or sodas with caffeine, drink the same amount each day or avoid them altogether.

Sleep and Headache Treatments

You can try prescription or over-the-counter drugs to help with your sleep problems. Alternative treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, yoga, or supplements may help ease migraines as well as any stress that might also be keeping you awake.

 

Caffeine might help you treat your migraines, but it can also keep you awake. Some migraine medicines contain caffeine. Keep your intake the same each day, even if you don’t have any at all.

 

Better treatments for migraines and sleep problems could be on the way. Researchers are working on drugs that might keep the number of headaches down. And they’re looking into a gene linked to poor sleep and migraines in some people.

 

If you don’t sleep well or long enough, you may try to nap during the day to make up for it. But that can make it harder to sleep at night -- and trigger more headaches. If you have to nap, do it before 3 p.m. and limit it to 30 minutes.

Good Sleep Habits

Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. You can control some things that may keep you from falling or staying asleep.

 
  • Go to bed when you’re ready to sleep. Don’t lie there and watch TV or read. You may get used to lying awake in your bed instead. When you wake up in the morning, get out of bed.
  • Sleep only in your bed, not in a chair or on your couch.
  • Set a schedule for when you go to bed and wake up. Stick to this routine as much as possible.
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex only.
  • Cover your clock or turn it away from you. That way you don’t glance at the clock to see the time and worry about being awake.
  • Get regular exercise. Don’t work out too close to your bedtime; this may make it hard to fall asleep. Exercise may also help you prevent or ease migraines.
  • Make your bedroom as quiet as possible to block out noise that could wake you up. Earplugs can help block out sounds.
  • Keep your bedroom at a mild temperature. If it’s too hot or cold you won’t sleep as well.
  • Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full. If you need something to eat before bedtime, have a light snack.
  • Don’t drink a lot of fluids before bed so you won’t get up during the night to go to the bathroom.
  • Avoid alcohol or smoking, especially before bedtime. You may think they’ll relax you, but they can make you wake up in the middle of the night.
  • If you can’t go back to sleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed. Go into another room to read a book so you can relax and become drowsy again. Don’t watch TV or look at your computer or phone. You may find it harder to fall asleep if you do.
WebMD Feature

Sources

SOURCES: 

 

Harvard Medical School: “Migraine.”
Illinois Neurological Institute: “Headaches and Sleep.”
American Migraine Foundation: “Sleep Disorders and Headache.”
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Headache: Hope Through Research.”
UCLA Headache Research and Treatment Program: “Migraine: Questions and Answers for Patients.”
The Migraine Trust: “Jaw Tension in Migraine and Headaches.”
Brennan, K. Science Translational Medicine, May 1, 2013.
De Tommaso, M. Journal of Headache Pain, published online Sept. 26, 2014.
American Headache Society: “Sleep, Insomnia, and Migraine.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Rebound Headaches.”

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