Is there anything worse than a migraine? Probably, but it can feel like the end of the world. Almost 40 million people in the US suffer from migraines, and nearly 5 million have at least one migraine in a month. What’s more, 91 percent of sufferers can’t function normally and even miss work during a migraine attack. Yet, it’s not just the pain that weighs you down. People who have migraines can also have sleep problems which in turn can worsen the pain.
Sleep and pain are controlled by the same areas of the brain. The more quality sleep you get, the less painful migraines can feel. In a study, volunteers who received an extra two hours of sleep a night showed improvements in a pain sensitivity test. The test involved holding a finger to a heat source. Those who slept for the two additional hours were able to hold their finger for longer. Exactly how sleep improves pain isn’t clear but it’s believed that sleep deprivation and pain increase inflammatory markers. When you get enough sleep, inflammation may go down.
We go through several sleep cycles a night. One of these, rapid eye movement or REM sleep occurs in the later half of the night. During REM, chemicals like serotonin and dopamine are released which help modulate pain perception. When you don’t get enough sleep, your REM stage is disrupted and not enough of these chemicals is released. Your migraines can feel worse and keep you from functioning normally. They can also make it harder to fall asleep as you tend to focus on the pain. This in turn creates a cycle of sleeplessness and pain.
It’s easy to assume that oversleeping will keep migraines at bay but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Although it’s not clear why, too much sleep can make migraines worse. It’s believed that it causes fluctuations in neurotransmitters in the brain. Another possibility is that sleeping beyond normal hours can cause low blood sugar or dehydration and lead to headaches.
So, what’s the right amount of sleep? People between the ages of 18 and 64 should get 7-9 hours of sleep while adults over 65 years should try to get 7-8 hours.
Use hot and cold compression to make the pain more tolerable. Ice can reduce the sensation of pain while heat can relax muscles. You can also take a warm shower.
Migraines can feel worse when you’re exposed to light. Make sure your bedroom is nice and dark by drawing blinds closed and turning off the lights.
Exposing yourself to natural light can realign your circadian rhythm so that you feel sleepy at night. Try to get out in the morning and take in the light. You can go for a walk or just sit out in the garden.
Both these substances disrupt sleep and since you want to try to get as much undisturbed sleep as possible, keep away from them. The one exception is if you suffer from hypnic headaches, which occur only when sleeping. The pain wakes you up, which is why they’re sometimes called hypnic headaches. People with this condition can benefit from small doses of caffeine such as a cup of coffee before bedtime.
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Detail your sleep and wake hours, how often you get migraines, what you eat etc. It will help you know if there are certain foods that trigger a migraine attack or if it’s because you’ve slept too little or too much.
You want as few disturbances as possible when sleeping with a migraine. A comfortable sleep environment can calm you and encourage sleep. Keep the TV turned off and listen to something that soothes you. If you have anything on your mind, write it down so that it doesn’t keep you awake. Consider using a well-designed mattress too, one that cushions and supports your body so that you feel relaxed enough to sleep. Nuvanna is one such mattress as it’s created to provide the perfect balance of comfort and support. It’s designed by an industry expert with more than 20 years of experience to give you the best sleep possible through three innovative layers.
The causes of migraines still remain a mystery but there are many factors that may trigger them. They can range from food and drink to stress and sensory stimuli. What’s clear is that getting good sleep can help reduce the pain. Make it a point to practice healthy sleep habits so that when night falls, sleep comes more easily and reduces the risk of getting a migraine.