- Research has found a strong link between sleep disorders and migraine.
- You can improve sleep habits for migraine relief by setting a strict sleep schedule, changing your bedroom, and avoiding heavy meals before bedtime.
- If your sleep doesn’t improve, talk with your doctor about getting tested for a sleep disorder.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce migraine attacks, you may want to examine your sleep habits.
Recent research has uncovered a connection between sleep and migraine, with evidence suggesting that chronic migraine and sleep disorders may go hand-in-hand.
Furthermore, getting enough sleep could help alleviate the head pain that many people with migraine experience, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
While it can be difficult to change habits that have reduced the quality of your sleep over the years, making gradual changes can help.
Here are eight ways to improve your sleep habits for migraine relief.
When you’re not sleeping well at night, you might experience daytime fatigue that tempts you to take a nap.
However, you might want to resist the urge for a midday snooze. There’s some evidence that daytime napping could contribute to the cycle of migraine and sleep disorders.
A 2016 survey of 147 adults with migraine found that two-thirds of those who experienced regular headaches also had insomnia. Another 60 percent reported regularly taking daytime naps to compensate for lack of sleep.
While a short afternoon nap may seem to give you an energy boost, daytime napping can interfere with your body’s internal sleep schedule. That, in turn, could contribute to insomnia, which is associated with migraine.
However, when it comes to caffeine, drinking too much — and too late in the day — may do more harm for migraine than good. Caffeine can stay in your system for several hours at a time, so drinking coffee, green tea, or other beverages in the afternoon may make it difficult to sleep at night.
Your best bet? Enjoy your caffeine in the mornings and aim to stop around your lunch break. To satisfy your afternoon cravings, try sipping on hot or iced herbal tea instead.
Regular exercise not only helps you burn calories and boost your metabolism, but it also helps decrease migraine triggers, such as stress and poor sleep.
The key to using physical activity as part of your migraine treatment plan is to exercise regularly. That might mean 5 to 10 minutes of walking every day if you’re just getting started, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Doing too much too soon could trigger headaches and other migraine symptoms, so start gradually.
If you prefer higher intensity workouts such as running, consider exercising earlier in the day. Doing high intensity exercise later in the day could make it difficult to fall asleep later.
Eating before bedtime can also disrupt your sleep quality, especially if you’re having larger meals late in the evening. Ideally, your last meal should be 4 hours before going to bed.
Also, eating right before bedtime can worsen heartburn. Stomach acid may travel back into the esophagus as a result of lying down after eating, causing discomfort that may keep you up at night.
Another consideration is the types of foods you eat, particularly during the hours closest to your bedtime. Avoid foods that are known to trigger migraine attacks, such as:
- artificial sweeteners
- spicy foods
- monosodium glutamate, or MSG
- citrus fruits
- aged cheese
- red meat
- processed or smoked meats
- food dyes
You’ll also want to avoid drinking alcohol. While a nightcap may have a sedative effect at first, the benefit is only temporary. Alcohol can prevent you from getting much-needed deep sleep, and may also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
Light, noise, and temperature can all affect your sleep quality. If you’re dealing with regular insomnia and migraine attacks, it’s helpful to assess your bedroom to see where you can improve the space.
Here are some ways to make your bedroom a more soothing environment for sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation:
- Lower the thermostat to between 60 to 67°F (16 to 19°C).
- Use a fan to create white noise that silences distracting sounds.
- Use darkening or blackout shades.
- Switch to a comfortable, supportive mattress.
- Keep digital clocks out of view.
As you wind down for the night, it’s tempting to scroll through your smartphone or watch TV. However, the blue light from screens can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Instead, swap out these activities out for more relaxing ones before bedtime. Some options include:
- guided imagery
- deep-breathing exercises
- biofeedback techniques
- light yoga stretches
- taking a warm bath
- reading a book
Not only will these activities help set the right mood for sleep, but they may also help alleviate stress, another common migraine trigger.
One of the best ways to you can improve the quality of your sleep is to establish a sleep schedule — and stick with it.
Getting too little or too much sleep can trigger migraine attacks, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, but figure out how many hours make you feel best and then aim to get that amount every night.
Also, while the temptation of sleeping in on weekends may be hard to resist, it’s important to stick with your schedule on these days, too.
Sleeping late on your days off can make it hard to fall asleep on schedule during the workweek, thereby starting the cycle of insomnia and daytime fatigue all over again.
Insomnia is just one of many sleep disorders associated with migraine. According to research from 2020, people with migraine may be at higher risk of:
- parasomnias, a group of sleep disturbances that may include unwanted thoughts, dreams, or behaviors
- obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which causes disrupted breathing while sleeping
- circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders
- restless legs syndrome, which causes frequent urges to move your legs when lying down
- periodic limb movements
If you continue to experience migraine along with fatigue and difficulty sleeping, you may want to get tested for a sleep disorder. The process often involves a sleep study, also known as polysomnography.
Sleep can play a role in the intensity and frequency of your migraine attacks.
Finding ways to get a good night’s rest on a consistent basis can reduce migraine attacks and help you feel better overall.
Making changes to your bedroom, setting a sleep schedule, creating a relaxing evening routine, and avoiding food and alcohol close to bedtime are some of the ways you can improve sleep for migraine relief.
If changing your sleep habits doesn’t help you get better rest or improve your migraine symptoms, talk with your doctor to determine if you should be tested for a sleep disorder.