How many times have your friends said that you should “sleep off” your migraine? They’ve seen how tired you are and know the searing pain you’re experiencing can bring your world to a screeching halt. Why wouldn’t they suggest a short mid-day nap?
The problem? Of course you’d love to get some extra sleep—that is, if you could.
A migraine can make it really hard to get a solid night of sleep. It makes it even harder to heed the advice of all your friends who have begged you not to Google your symptoms.
And if you’re like many people, you’ve googled it and probably concluded that your migraines are causing a condition called sleep apnea, which the Mayo Clinic defines as a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Or as the Sleep Foundation explains, your body is trying really hard to breathe, but the muscles in the back of your throat just won’t cooperate.
But when you dig a little deeper, there isn’t much scientific research that suggests that the two conditions are connected. So what’s the deal? While it’s hard to say how (or if) either one causes the other, we’ve answered a few critical questions to make the relationship between them a little less confusing.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, people living with this condition are between two to eight times more likely to experience sleep disorders. That answers our question, right? Well, not exactly.
Although there is a strong connection between obstructive sleep apnea and morning headaches, the morning headache symptoms are different than a chronic migraine headache.
A sleep apnea-induced headache will often improve or subside on its own, while a migraine could last for up to 72 hours without the right treatment.
In addition, apnea-induced headaches usually ache while migraine headaches throb.
While there isn’t a clear connection between the two, there are still a few ways you can treat your migraines and improve your sleep. We turned to Harvard Medical School and Dr. Mauskop who suggested the following tips. While they may feel obvious, we bet you could use this reminder of just how important they are.
There are two main ways to treat your migraine headaches.
There are also a few ways that you can treat your migraines in addition to medication that involve avoiding triggers (we know, easier said than done). We covered them extensively in a previous article about home remedies, but here’s a list for you to refer to whenever you need it:
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the first thing to do is to see your doctor. Leading up to your appointment, keep a record of your sleep, fatigue levels, and any other symptoms you’re having.
Your doctor might suggest a sleep study, which often requires an overnight stay at a sleep center. This test helps doctors understand the severity of your disorder and create a treatment plan. In addition, there are at home sleep tests that might be an option for you.
In many cases, a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) is prescribed to treat symptoms. This tends to be incredibly effective. But there are also a few lifestyle changes that the National Sleep Foundation says could help with symptoms, including:
We get how unfair all of this is. It’s bad enough that you have to manage those incredibly painful migraine headaches. It’s even worse when they’re affecting your sleep—and infuriating that there isn’t a clear explanation for why your migraines are making it so hard to get some decent rest.
So what’s next? Start by talking to your doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Your doctor might determine that it’s worth meeting with a specialist, especially if you’ve already tried some of the treatment options we’ve outlined here. With the right treatment and increased awareness of what is (or in this case, isn’t) going on, it’s very possible to experience fewer headaches and sleep better regularly.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
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