Updated at: 25-02-2022 - By: Jane Brody

For both our health and our survival, getting a good night’s sleep is crucial. Like our immune system and our memory and learning, numerous bodily processes are regulated and restored while we sleep. Many of our bodily functions are also affected by a lack of sleep, including our mental health. Sleep deprivation can have a severe impact on these systems and lead to mental and physical health issues. Migraines and other types of headaches, on the other hand, are among the most debilitating ailments caused by a lack of sleep.

What Is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation differs from insomnia in that it happens when a person is unable to fall or stay asleep2 despite having ample time and conditions conducive to rest. Several factors, such as lengthy or irregular work hours, substance misuse, stress and anxiety, medications, or medical disorders that disrupt sleep, may contribute to a lack of sleep. These obstacles keep some people from getting adequate sleep because they interfere with their ability to set aside enough time for rest. Others are able to get enough sleep, but they wake up frequently during the night, preventing them from getting the rest they need. Deprivation of sleep has been associated with a decrease in cognitive function and focus, as well as excessive daytime sleepiness, mood disturbances, and difficulties in memory and decision-making. Numerous headache diseases have been connected to sleep loss in research studies. Migraine is the most common ailment that strikes people when they get up in the morning.

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What Are Migraines?

About 13% of people in the United States suffer from migraines. In most cases, the pain is localized on one side of the head, however, it can occur on both sides at the same time. Other common symptoms include nausea, weakness, and a heightened sensitivity to light and noise.

The presence or absence of an aura is used to further classify migraines. Muscle weakness, tingling, visual problems, blurred vision, and other neurological symptoms may occur before or during a migraine and are referred to as secondary symptoms. A family history of migraines increases the likelihood that a person will suffer from migraines, and women are more likely to suffer from migraines than males.

Does Sleep Deprivation Cause Migraines?

Research has long established a link between insomnia and headache disorders, including migraines, tension-type headaches, and the less common cluster and hypnic headaches. However, migraine sufferers are more prone to sleep deprivation than individuals with other types of headache problems. Sleep deprivation has also been proven to worsen the severity and frequency of migraines in addition to raising the risk.

How Does Sleep Deprivation Trigger Migraines?

However, further research is needed to properly understand the link between migraines and sleep deprivation, but they do share basic brain mechanisms. To give one example, the hypothalamus, a region of the brain responsible for controlling sleep and wakefulness, also contains neurons that regulate pain. It also contains the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which receives signals from our eyes and helps us synchronize our sleeping behaviors with the external cycle of light and darkness. The sleep-wake cycle can be thrown off if the SCN is destroyed, which can lead to insomnia throughout the day.

The pineal gland, which releases melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep when we notice the shift between day and night, is another crucial portion of the brain involved in sleep. Migraines, cluster headaches, and waking up with a headache have all been associated with low levels of the sleep hormone melatonin10.

Can Other Sleeping Problems Trigger Migraines?

Research shows that migraines can be triggered by both sleep loss and excessive sleep (hypersomnia). While a good night’s sleep might help alleviate migraine symptoms, oversleeping can actually worsen them. As a general rule, people who sleep in on the weekends to make up for missing sleep are more likely to suffer from migraines than those who don’t.

There is a two-way association between migraines and sleep deprivation. As a result, sleep disturbances can lead to migraines, and migraines can lead to sleep disturbances. Migraine headaches can leave us feeling weary and sleepy, which may disturb our sleep-wake cycle.

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Migraine vs. tension

Migraine headaches can produce severe and occasionally incapacitating pain. Among the signs and symptoms are:

  • Headache that is almost always localized to one side of the body
  • from hours to days of excruciating discomfort
  • sensitivities to both sound and light
  • nausea
  • vomiting

As a rule of thumb, the symptoms of a tension headache are mild to moderate, and they aren’t frequently exacerbated by light or sound.

According to research, a number of additional types of headaches can develop when people are asleep, including cluster and hemicrania continua. It’s still unclear if migraines and tension headaches are linked to a lack of sleep.

Sleep-headache link

A lack of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep has been related to more intense headaches, according to a study published in 2011 by researchers at Missouri State University. The rapid eye movements that occur during REM sleep give this phase of sleep its name. It occurs every 90 to 120 minutes during the night.

In addition, this stage of sleep is marked by the following:

  • more time spent daydreaming
  • bodily motions
  • breathing more quickly
  • increases in blood pressure

Researchers believe REM sleep is essential for memory storage, learning, and mood management.

Chronic pain might be caused by a lack of sleep, according to the findings of a study published in 2011. Pain thresholds appear to be reduced by these proteins and migraine headaches may be triggered as a result.

An in-depth look back at the previous year A lack of sleep is strongly linked to tension headaches, according to a reliable source.

Sleep-pain link

There is increasing evidence that sleep deprivation lowers the body’s ability to tolerate discomfort.

According to a 2015 study trusted Source, those who suffer from sleep disorders including insomnia are more sensitive to pain.

A 106-second cold-water immersion test was administered by the researchers. They were more likely to remove their hand from the cold water if they had sleeplessness. They were the most susceptible to the cold water because they had a lower pain threshold than others.

I Woke Up With a Migraine. What Can I Do?

Migraine sufferers can take action to lessen their symptoms, despite the fact that there is no cure13. It is possible to alleviate discomfort with over-the-counter pain medicines or cool, moist cloth on your forehead. Additionally, you can make sure that your surroundings are serene and quiet. Talk to your doctor if your migraines are frequent or severe. It is possible for a healthcare provider to work with you to determine the cause of your migraines by examining your symptoms, discussing your medical history, and conducting physical or neurological examinations. In addition, your doctor may recommend other medications to treat your migraines.

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How Can I Prevent Future Migraines?

There is no doubt that the relationship between sleep deprivation and migraines is nuanced and delicate. One of the most important methods to avoid migraines and other headache diseases is to obtain enough sleep, as both too little and too much sleep have been linked to these conditions. Sleeping between 7-8 hours a night is recommended for adults by the National Sleep Foundation, but younger people may require more sleep. In addition, proper sleep hygiene is vital for ensuring that you get the most restful sleep possible. To help you establish and maintain a regular sleep schedule, consider the following suggestions.

  • Try to stick to a routine: Even on the weekends, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. It’s best to stick to a regular sleep pattern in order to avoid headaches caused by sleep deprivation and oversleeping.
  • You should avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, or taking any other stimulant before going to sleep.
  • Reading, meditating, or listening to music might help you wind down before bed, so make time for these activities. Your bedroom should be kept cool and comfy, and your mattress should be firm enough to support you while you sleep.
  • The light released by mobile phones, tablets, televisions, and other electronic gadgets can interrupt your circadian cycle and make it harder to fall asleep. Avoid using these devices while in bed and turn them off before going to sleep.

Good sleep hygiene

A good night’s rest is one of the most effective strategies to avoid headaches. Here are ten ways to ensure a good night’s sleep:

  1. Regular physical activity can help you sleep better at night. You should, however, avoid exercising too close to bedtime. Attempt to work out at least three hours before going to sleep.
  2. In the evening, eat light. You’ll be less likely to experience bloating or a sudden burst of energy that keeps you up at night.
  3. Maintain a regular sleeping routine. You can help your body relax better by keeping a regular bedtime and wake-up hours each day.
  4. During the day, be sure to get plenty of light. As a result, a lack of light can cause tiredness and disrupt your sleep-wake cycles.
  5. Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine should all be avoided at least four to six hours before bedtime. Your sleep may be disrupted by these things.
  6. Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool (but not too cold), quiet, and comfy so that you can get a good night’s sleep. Products that have been tested and approved by experts can help you sleep better at night.
  7. Before you go to sleep, make sure your bedroom is free of anything that could disrupt your sleep or cause you tension. TVs, PCs, and other electronic devices are included in this category. Sleep and sex should be the only things you do in the bedroom.
  8. Plan your child’s nighttime routine. An effective pre-sleep practice can help you wind down and prepare for restful sleep. A few hours before going to sleep, avoid using any electronic devices. Take a bath or read a book instead.
  9. When you’re exhausted, don’t try to force yourself to go to sleep. If you aren’t weary by the time you usually go to bed, it’s worth it to wait another 30 minutes or an hour. When you can’t sleep at night, it can lead to a lot of anxiety and frustration.
  10. Make sure you don’t drink too much before you go to sleep. Reduce your fluid intake so that you aren’t woken up in the middle of the night by the need to go to the restroom.

Treatment for headaches

You should seek therapy as soon as you experience tension or migraine headache as a result of not getting enough sleep.

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Tension headache treatment

Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can be used to ease the pain of a tension headache. Among them are:

  • such as aspirin (Bufferin), ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve), among others, to ease discomfort
  • pain relievers and tranquilizers that are typically labeled “PM” or “Nighttime”
  • triptans, which are migraine medications prescribed by a doctor

Tension headaches can be prevented by taking the following steps:

  • Protriptyline and amitriptyline (Elavil) are examples of tricyclic antidepressants (Vivactil)
  • venlafaxine and mirtazapine are two more antidepressants to consider (Remeron, Remeron Soltab)
  • Muscle relaxants and anticonvulsants such as topiramate (Topamax)

Migraine headache treatment

Treatment for migraine headaches is more vigorous since they are more severe than tension headaches. The following prescription and over-the-counter drugs may help relieve the symptoms of a migraine:

  • To treat mild migraine symptoms, pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can be used. Excedrin Migraine, a migraine medication that combines caffeine and aspirin, may be beneficial for those suffering from mild headaches.
  • Indomethacin, a suppository migraine pain reliever, is available in case you’re too nauseated to swallow pills.
  • The brain’s pain pathways can be blocked with triptans. They reduce swelling in blood vessels by attaching to serotonin receptors. Prescription pills, nasal sprays, and injections are all forms of this medicine. Most people find Treximet, a combination of triptan and naproxen, to be highly beneficial in relieving their migraine symptoms.
  • Ergotamine is a chemical found in ergots, which is often mixed with caffeine to make a stronger stimulant. Constriction of the blood vessels is the mechanism by which this combination relieves pain. Migraine discomfort that lasts longer than 48 hours can be reduced with these medications, and they work best when given as soon as the symptoms begin. There are fewer side effects associated with dihydroergotamine (Migranal) than there are with ergotamine.
  • Anti-nausea drugs such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), metoclopramide (Reglan), and prochlorperazine (Compazine) can be helpful in alleviating symptoms of nausea.
  • Migraine sufferers who are unable to take triptans or ergots are often prescribed opioids, such as codeine, to alleviate their agony. These drugs aren’t meant to be taken for long periods of time because they can become addictive.
  • Analgesics like prednisone and dexamethasone can help alleviate some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

People who suffer from migraines lasting more than 12 hours four or more times a month may benefit from the following medications:

  • Migraines may be prevented with the use of beta-blockers, which lessen the body’s response to stress chemicals.
  • migraines that cause vision issues may be prevented by taking calcium channel blockers, commonly used to treat high blood pressure.
  • Prescription high blood pressure medicine Prinivil and Zestril (Lisinopril) may lower the duration and intensity of migraine headaches.
  • Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, and venlafaxine, a depression medicine, can both help avoid migraines and lessen their frequency.
  • Medication for seizure disorders may lower the frequency of migraines.
  • The use of Botox in the areas of the forehead and neck may be effective in treating persons with chronic migraines. It is possible that these injections will have to be repeated in three months.
  • Aimovig (erenumab-aooe) is a drug that inhibits the function of a particular molecule that is linked to the onset of migraines. Migraine sufferers can benefit from a monthly injection of this drug.

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