Back to School, Sleep and Chronic Headaches

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September 19, 2014

It’s officially back to school time for all kids across the country! For some it’s back to chronic headaches or migraines, in Houston, Chicago and other towns (mega and tiny) across the country. Start dates vary, but the stress that kids and parents endure this time of year can be overwhelming everywhere.

Most of us don’t think about kids having headaches like grownups do, but their triggers and symptoms are often be quite similar. Treatment though should be individualized, since the FDA does not approve certain drugs commonly used to treat adults, for use in children with headache conditions (although they are routinely prescribed for kids by off-label use.)

Stress and sleep deprivation trigger chronic headaches (tension type) and migraines in kids as well as adults. The school year brings sudden daily routine changes. Unfortunately, sleep is the first area to be sacrificed. Getting to bed late and waking up early for school leaves youngsters ill equipped to manage stress that comes with navigating the hectic school day, playing team sports and completing nightly homework. It’s a headache waiting to strike.

Before vowing to homeschool your child, pulling her out of cross country in Seattle or yanking him from varsity football in Houston, migraines and chronic tension headaches could be managed with better sleep hygiene. Here are some ideas you can try to help your child settle down for sweet dreams and restful sleep:

  • Prepare a cup of warm milk (for both of you) before bedtime
  • Enjoy a pleasant conversation or tell your (young) child a bedtime story
  • Discourage your youngster from drinking or eating shortly before bed (avoid middle of the night calls to nature)
  • Use soft music, a ceiling fan or anything else that provides white noise if your child has trouble get to sleep in a noisy home.
  • Encourage the same bed time and routine every evening, and try to not deviate much on the weekends
  • School age children should get 10-11 hours of nightly sleep, whereas teenagers should get about 9 hours each night according to the National Sleep Foundation.
  • If you can’t keep technology out of the bedroom, at least make sure all gizmos are powered down, optimally at least an hour before bedtime

Getting onto a regular sleep schedule is critical for kids who suffer with chronic headaches and migraines. Not only does this help alleviate pain and other symptoms, but also they are better positioned to do well at school and sports. Whether your kid battled migraines in Houston, or tension headaches in Toronto last school year, you can help him or her get off to a better start this year with good sleep habits.

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