Getting enough sleep is important for most people, but for migraineurs the quality of sleep can have as much impact on their wellbeing as the quantity. A 2016 study by an outpatient headache clinic in Taiwan showed a significant association between the quality of the respondents’ sleep and the frequency of their migraines, which indicates that improving the quality of sleep can also reduce patients’ suffering from migraines. Some of the connections between migraine and poor quality sleep include:
- Too little (or too much) sleep is a common headache trigger for many people.
- Patients who suffer from migraine often also experience depression, anxiety and Restless Leg Syndrome that interfere with their sleep. This seems to indicate a definite relationship between the conditions.
- Insomniacs frequently have a history of migraine or other headache complaints.
- It’s often difficult for people with headaches to fall asleep, and since a lack of sleep triggers the expression of three types of migraine proteins, ongoing sleepless nights can result in chronic pain manifesting as migraine.
- Heavy snorers are at risk from waking up multiple times a night, which can also lead to the chronic pain of headache as a result of insufficient rest.
Any improvement in the quality of sleep offers positive effects for migraineurs, so we’ve included a list of the most common methods of finding the rest migraine patients so desperately need.
Avoid Stimulants Before Bedtime
That last cup of coffee after dinner might be a family tradition, but it almost certainly isn’t doing you any favors. Alcohol, caffeine and smoking are all stimulants that can result in a sleepless night, unless you avoid them for between 4 and 6 hours ahead of bedtime.
Practice Sleep “Hygiene”
This is a term used for creating an established pre-sleep routine, which has been proved to help insomniacs achieve rest more quickly. It consists of a series of relaxing activities and the elimination of all potential disruptions. A warm bath, for example, is soothing and promotes the onset of drowsiness, particularly when you’re tired. Reading a book, as opposed to watching television or reading an electronic tablet, computer or smartphone, helps to reduce the amount of cortisol the body produces. This lowers the stress level and reduces the risk of increasing alertness.
Stick to a Fixed Time
Your mother wasn’t wrong when she told you to go to bed at the same time every night. Adhering to a regular sleep schedule is an excellent way of “training” your body clock to power down at a given time each day. When patients combine this with a consistent wake time every day, many find this helps to make them ready for bed—and ready to sleep—at the same time each night. This applies on weekends too, so instead of being tempted to sleep in for that extra hour, you’ll benefit more from sticking to your regular schedule.
Watch Your Consumption
In addition to avoiding chemical stimulants, it’s helpful to have lighter meals at night to avoid eating items that could cause indigestion. While everyone metabolizes food differently, heavy protein-filled meals are a common denominator in sleep disturbances. Monitor the quantity of fluids you drink, too, which will reduce the number of trips you make to the bathroom during the night.
Get Moving Early
Exercise is a great way to release the endorphins that help you relax, but strenuous activity too close to your bedtime releases cortisol and heightens your alertness. Make it a point to complete your exercise routine at least 3 hours before you’re ready to retire. You may find relaxation exercises an acceptable form of activity at bedtime, but it’s essential to do them correctly.
Create a Safe Haven
Your sleep environment is important to encourage healthy rest. Try to remove all distractions from the bedroom, and create a soothing and restful atmosphere:
- Reduce noise pollution through the use of earplugs if necessary
- Maintain a steady, cool temperature that hovers between 60 and 75 F
- Ensure the room is well ventilated and there are no distracting odors that can reach you
- Get rid of any clocks—watching them during the night can cause unnecessary stress and prevent you from sleeping peacefully.
If your sleep quality doesn’t improve in 4 weeks after the introduction of these measures, you may need to consult your doctor to find out if other issues are present.