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HeadWay Issue #227 - I Can't Sleep!
February 21, 2024

In this issue:

I Can't Sleep! Migraine and Insomnia

Say what?! Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)

I Can't Sleep! Migraine and Insomnia

"I can't sleep, because of this headache."
"I can't sleep, and it's giving me a headache."

Which of the above describes you? Possibly both, right?

A new study from Italy published this year got me thinking again about migraine, headache, and sleep. This particular study made some interesting observations. For example,
  • Patients with insomnia are more likely to develop migraine, and patients with migraine are more likely to develop insomnia.
  • The two most common insomnia problems related to headache: Trouble falling asleep, and trouble staying asleep.
  • Sometimes stress/anxiety about insomnia increased risk of more headache days.
  • The strongest connection was not with headache severity, but frequency. More headaches meant more insomnia symptoms.
  • Patients with aura complained of waking up early more often.
  • Sleep trouble was frequently related to poor "sleep hygiene" - more on that in a moment.
Most of these things won't be surprising, but there are some interesting details. For example, you would think that more severe headaches would tend to lead to more insomnia, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Also, the link is often "weak" - in other words, there is a link between migraine and insomnia in general, in the general population. But this is by no means a guarantee that one will lead to the other in an individual.

Can I do anything about it?

Probably the most useful outcome of this study is the confirmation that there may be something you can do about your sleep issues.

Now we've talked about sleep a lot - you can do a search for information here. We've even had our community give tips for getting to sleep. So no one is going to tell you this is an easy thing to solve. However, this report does give us some helpful reminders:
  1. Insomnia anxiety can make things worse. Instead of worrying, make an appointment with a doctor or specialist. And tonight when you can't sleep, read a book instead of stressing.
  2. Be careful of naps (these researchers suggest that you at least keep them under an hour).
  3. Keep a regular sleep schedule (i.e. try as much as possible to go to bed and get up at the same times - very important for migraine!).
  4. Try restricting your caffeine intake to morning/early afternoon (and remember, your body changes - what worked for you 5 years ago may not work today).
  5. Avoid using electronic devices before bed (I know, it's a classic suggestion, but there's a reason).
  6. Avoid late night studying as much as you can.
  7. Is your bed uncomfortable? Consider investing in something better. You spend a lot of time in that bed!
  8. Take a look at other related symptoms/conditions. These researchers mention a key one - restless legs syndrome. Learn more about RLS here.
And I'll add a couple more - consider seeing a sleep specialist, especially if you're not waking up feeling refreshed. Also, take a look at your alcohol/cannabis consumption, both of which can cause problems with sleep patterns.

Sleep is very important for migraine patients, headache patients - and everyone! Don't ignore it. Finding good solutions may help you fight migraine as well.

Say what?! Insomnia Severity Index

If you checked out the study above, you may see that it used the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). This is a specially designed questionnaire to help doctors and researchers evaluate patient insomnia.

The ISI evaluates things like when you're having trouble sleeping and how disabling the problem is. It's a quick questionnaire, so that your doctor or specialist can know where to go when they dig deeper into your particular sleep challenges.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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