How Can You Get Good Sleep When You Have Migraine?
Millions of people happily hit the snooze button and enjoy an extra hour of sleep when daylight savings time ends. People with migraine, however, may dread turning the clock back. That’s because migraine brains do best on a consistent schedule, and sudden changes can trigger an attack.
If you have migraine and you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. One study found that 38% of migraineurs slept, on average, 6 hours per night, instead of the recommended 8 hours. Migraines were triggered by sleep disturbance in 50% of patients, and 71% reported headaches waking them from sleep.[i]
Even if you’re living with migraine, you don’t have to live with sleep problems and fatigue. The end of daylight savings is a good time to make a resolution: Try some new ways to get a better night’s rest.
Start — and stick to! — a relaxing nighttime routine.
Maybe you crash into bed every night when you’re exhausted. Maybe you stay up too late scrolling on your phone or playing games. Maybe you rush around the house trying to get a few last tasks done before the chaos of the morning. Whatever your typical routine (or lack thereof), it’s time to rethink it.
Experts recommend simple rituals such as playing calming music, reading or working on a word or number puzzle, dimming the lights, and practicing a meditation or mindfulness exercise. Many CEFALY users say they use their CEFALY DUAL’s PREVENT setting before bedtime, because of the mild sedative effect it can produce.[ii] The low-frequency PREVENT setting, which is used for 20 minutes daily, desensitizes the Trigeminal nerve over time to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
Examine your sleep environment.
Flat pillows. A too-warm comforter. An old, sagging mattress. Sound familiar? Upgrading your bedroom can help upgrade your sleep as well. Even if you’re on a budget, you can make small improvements, such as a mattress topper, a new pillow or crisp sheets. Some migraineurs say a weighted blanket helps them sleep.[iii]
Also, consider temperature and light. Set the thermostat to between 65 and 69 degrees Fahrenheit (adjust based on your own preferences). Invest in light-blocking shades and low-watt bulbs, or a dimmer.[iv] These changes may also help you feel better during a migraine attack, when all you want is cool darkness.
Be vigilant about cutting off caffeine.
People with migraine often have a love-hate relationship with caffeine. For some, caffeine can help relieve migraine pain; for others, it can trigger an attack. If you do consume caffeine, a good rule of thumb is to do so no later than 6 hours before bedtime.[v]
Practice methods that can help you fall asleep — or fall back asleep.
Recently we shared some migraine relaxation techniques that can also be used for sleep, such as progressive muscle relaxation and breathing exercises. Here are a few more to try:
- Visualizing a calm, peaceful place
- Listening to soothing stories or guided meditations
- Writing down the things that worry you
- Distracting yourself with a mental challenge, like counting backward by sevens or pondering a tough crossword clue
Talk to your healthcare provider about chronic sleep problems.
Poor sleep may be caused by a physical condition you’re not aware of, such as sleep apnea or bruxism (grinding your teeth). Ask your healthcare provider to screen you for these conditions if you think they might be disrupting your sleep.
Insomnia also may be caused by migraine attacks. As the American Migraine Foundation explains, “people are vulnerable during the early morning because most over-the-counter and narcotic pain medications wear off in 4-8 hours, especially if they’re overusing those medications.” If you wake up with migraine, ask your healthcare provider about options, including drug-free migraine acute and preventative treatments, to reduce your pain and get a restorative night’s sleep.
Did you know CEFALY DUAL is now available without a prescription? Learn more about how CEFALY works and try it with our risk-free 60-day guarantee.
Reviewed by: Deena E. Kuruvilla, MD, a board-certified neurologist and the director of the Westport Headache Institute, where she employs a holistic biopsychosocial approach to diagnosis and treatment. She held clinical appointments at the Yale University School of Medicine prior to starting her own practice and has authored many articles, book chapters, and research publications.
[i] Kelman L, Rains JC. Headache and sleep: examination of sleep patterns and complaints in a large clinical sample of migraineurs. Headache. 2005 Jul-Aug;45(7):904-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2005.05159.x. PMID: 15985108.
[ii] Piquet M, Balestra C, Sava SL, Schoenen JE. Supraorbital transcutaneous neurostimulation has sedative effects in healthy subjects. BMC Neurol. 2011 Oct 28;11:135. doi: 10.1186/1471-2377-11-135.