Crummy Sleep and Chronic Headache Connection

September 6, 2012

You avoid red wine and chocolate.  And, not that you’re famous, but you even avoid the paparazzi’s flashing lights as they try to shoot your photo coming out of the coffee bar in your sunglasses!  Work and the kiddos haven’t been stressing you out any more than usual, so why are you having so much difficulty managing your chronic migraines?  After waking up with a daily chronic headache, it’s all you can do to drag yourself through your family chores and work, keeping yourself going with caffeine, only to crash into bed exhausted every night.  It might be time for a little ‘sleep investigation’.

You may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a sleep disorder, which has been linked with triggering chronic migraines and causing chronic daily headaches.  Several studies have researched this connection, including a 2010 study from the Missouri State University Center for Biomedical and Life Sciences.  The researchers found that sleep disturbances increase the risk for developing chronic headaches and migraines or triggering chronic migraines.  The scientists determined that REM sleep disturbances increased the levels of certain proteins that play a role in triggering chronic pain in facial nerves involved with the neurological events underlying migraines.

The American Headache Society also indicates that risk factors, for transforming episodic migraines into chronic migraines, are snoring and sleep apnea. ACHE, the educational website for the American Headache Society states that snoring, an indicator of abnormal sleep breathing, is a common risk factor for chronic daily headaches.  Other apnea symptoms include interrupted breathing patterns, awakening, nighttime urination, daytime drowsiness and night sweats.

Experts suggest asking your bed partner to note any night-time breathing interruptions and snoring.  If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, you should journal your sleep activities, along with your migraine journal to determine if there is a connection between your headaches and a possible sleep disorder.  You may find that overnight testing by medical experts at a sleep center is necessary to diagnose your condition.  If it turns out that you have a sleeping disorder, treating it could go a long way in managing the symptoms of your chronic migraines or headaches as well.

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