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Why Do You Wake Up With a Migraine?

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Mar 28, 2014 7:00:00 AM

Professional basketball star Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat has been dealing with health issues for a good portion of his third NBA championship. One of those issues has been a fixture of his entire career: Chronic migraine headaches. On the days he wakes up with a migraine, the team knows that he will not be on the active roster.waking up with a migraine

Wade has been able to manage his migraine condition to a level that has allowed him to perform to the best of his playing abilities, but waking up with a migraine is something that cannot always be avoided. Researchers have determined that rapid eye movement (REM) can sometimes cause migraines. This is rather unfortunate for patients who are careful in terms of managing their diet, exercise and sleep habits; after all, REM is a desirable part of sleep.

Getting Good Sleep Versus Getting Migraines

Stress is one of the most common migraine triggers. Sleep disorders cause stress, which is why it is very important for migraine patients to make sure they are keep to a regular sleep schedule. Insomnia and sleep deprivation are known migraine triggers, and in some cases oversleeping may also bring headaches. 

REM cycles are associated with dreaming. The dreams that most people tend to remember are those that take place when neurotransmitters are being released during REM cycles. This connection between headaches and REM explains the theory of migraines being of a neuro-chemical origin.

Sleep without REM is possible, but it is not recommended. Many sleeping pills act as sedatives that put people into an unnatural and dreamless state of sleep, which means that the REM cycle does not take place. For this reason, sleep medications are usually only recommended as a way of treating extreme cases of insomnia.

Migraine patients should not try to eliminate REM from their sleep periods; doing so will certainly exacerbate their condition after a few nights. Waking up with a migraine is not the same as a waking up because of a migraine. The problem is when REM cycles happen shortly before waking up, and the key for migraine patients is to develop sleeping patterns and habits that cause REM to take place earlier.

Sleep Recommendations for Migraine Patients

The snooze feature of alarm clocks is not a good idea for migraine patients. People who wake up with headaches should get up and follow the advice of their doctors.

Ideal bedrooms for sleeping should be dark and quiet. Deep sleepers who are not bothered by lights or noises are simply not aware that these sleep impediments will eventually affect them. Interrupted sleep is bound to reduce the neurotransmitters that should be released in optimal amounts in the stages before REM. 

Going to bed on an empty stomach is better than consuming sugar, caffeine or liquor before sleeping. Sleep specialists recommend dinners rich in carbohydrates consumed three hours before bedtime. 

In the end, waking up with a migraine is not always indicative of abnormal sleep, but the stress caused by irregular sleep patterns take a toll on overall health and cause stress, which is an even stronger migraine trigger. 

*Photo courtesy of

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Topics: Migraine

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