The surprising reason behind episodic migraines

“When it comes to sleep and [migraines], there’s a lot that we don’t know,” explained Dr.  Suzanne Bertisch, who is the lead author of a new paper appearing in the journal Neurology.  “I became interested in this topic because [people with migraines] are frequently referred to me in the sleep clinic for help with treating their insomnia.”

With a cohort study that included a sample pool of 98 participants, Dr. Bertisch and her team discovered that fragmented sleep considerably surges the likelihood of migraines two days later (labeled day one in this study).

Sleep duration and day risks for episodic migraines

Over the course of six weeks, participants were supplied with an electronic sleep journal. In it, they were asked to record their overall sleep habits,  any strange symptoms they observed, instances of alcohol and or caffeine intake, amount of exercise, stress levels and the frequency of reoccurring migraines.  In order to analyze sleep patterns in real-time, the researchers had the subjects fitted with actigraphs.

At the end of the study period, a collective 870 migraines were recorded, leaving a trail of constants in their wake.

Dr. Bertisch felt fairly confident about the correlation. To her astonishment, neither short sleep, which is defined by a duration marker less than six hours a night nor “poor sleep” was temporally linked to episodic headaches on day zero or day one. Sleep fragmentation, on the other hand, was associated with a nearly 40% risk increase for migraines.

There’s a slight but pertinent difference between low quality sleep and fragmented sleep.  In the study’s context, quality is gauged after an individual has already fallen asleep. Fragmented sleep, alternatively called low-efficiency sleep in the paper, denotes the number of time participants spent lying in bed before successfully drifting off.

“We estimated the incidence of migraines following nights with short sleep duration, high fragmentation, or low quality compared to nights with adequate sleep with conditional logistic regression models stratified by participant and adjusted for caffeine intake, alcohol intake, physical activity, stress, and day of the week,” the authors write. “Sleep duration ≤6.5 hours and poor sleep quality were not associated with migraine on day zero or day one. Diary-reported low efficiency was associated with 39% higher odds of headache on day one.”

Treating sleep fragmentation begins by identifying the numerous underlying cause affecting your case in particular. Sleep apnea might be the most widespread correlate.

Sufferers have difficulty settling into spindles because of breathing complications. Speak to a physician about addressing this specific factor with an air pressure mask or lifestyle recommendations to mitigate the symptoms. Both have been proven to be successful in the past. 

Even though the many forms of insomnia plagues us all from time to time, the list of broader treatment prescriptions is surprisingly short. “Anyone treating these [people] wants to be able to counsel them on what to do to decrease their risk of [migraine], but the literature is unclear on what kind of sleep interventions may be helpful.” Dr. Bertisch told Medical News Today. ” Sleep fragmentation, defined by low sleep efficiency, was associated with higher odds of migraine on day 1. Further research is needed to understand the clinical and neurobiological implications of sleep fragmentation and risk of migraine.”