Sleep Soundly With Migraine

Migraine doesn’t have to lead to tossing and turning. Try these sleep tips and drift off into dreamland.

Health Monitor Staff
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Sleep Migraine, Migraines

When migraine strikes, falling—and staying—asleep is a challenge. What’s worse, it can create a vicious cycle since getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night has been shown to increase the frequency and severity of migraine.

So what if you’ve tried the usual—darkened your room, set the thermostat to 68° and written worries down on a piece of paper before lights out—but you’re still tossing and turning? Talk to your healthcare team, and consider these strategies:

Find out if you’re suffering from depression. People with migraine are twice as likely to experience depression as those without the condition. And depression can interfere with shut-eye.

Resist the urge to “sleep in,” even on weekends. Binge sleeping on your days off can actually trigger a migraine, so try to keep your weekend bedtime and wake-time within an hour or so of your weekday schedule.

Avoid exercising two hours before bedtime. But do aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity several days of the week. A recent study found that when migraine sufferers did aerobic exercise for 40 minutes three times a week for three months, the frequency of attacks was reduced by 25% on average.

Consider meditating at bedtime. Meditation has been found to reduce headache frequency and improve pain tolerance. And it will help you nod off when your mind is in overdrive. Find a quiet place to count your breaths or repeat a word or phrase. Relaxation techniques include guided imagery, in which you image a calm scene, such as yourself sitting on the beach. 

Skip daytime napping. This can lead to insomnia because you’ll be less likely to be tired at bedtime if you sleep during the day. If you must nap, don’t make it longer than 20 minutes.

Do the “fold test.” When pillows get too old they don’t offer the proper support, resulting in neck pain that can exacerbate your migraine and make it harder to fall asleep. If you fold your pillow in half and it doesn’t spring open right away, it’s time for a replacement.

Cut back on the java. Avoid consuming caffeine four to five hours before bedtime. Also, pay attention to the amount of caffeine you’re getting from other beverages, like soda, and foods. You might be consuming more than you think.

January 2014