How to Sleep With a Migraine? Everything You Need to Update 07/2024

When I started seeing spots at Disneyland the last time, I knew something bad was about to happen. After that, I experienced excruciating agony behind my eyes and nausea.

A wet washcloth was wrapped around my neck as I lay on my hotel bed, hoping desperately that the wonderful comfort that would come from falling asleep would come. Instead of making churros and riding Matterhorn, I was locked in the hotel room.

You either despise migraines or you’ve never experienced one. We need to know what they are and what we can do about them.

Headache vs. Migraine: What’s the Difference?

Many people confuse the terms “headaches” and “migraines,” but there are some important distinctions between the two. When it comes to headache types, migraines are like squares and rectangles; however, a square or rectangle does not automatically mean that it is a migraine. Cluster, tension, and sinus headaches are just a few of the various forms of headaches that can occur.

Pain linked with ordinary headaches is typically less severe and does not accompany other symptoms, on the whole. In addition to the discomfort behind one eye, seeing spots, light sensitivity, and loss of vision, migraines can cause nausea and vomiting.

Two types of migraines exist those with an aura (known as a “classic” migraine) and those that don’t. One hour before the event, “sensory disturbances” are said to have occurred.

Some examples of these commotions include:

  • Zig-zag lines, flashing lights, or patches of light.
  • Vision is gone.
  • Discomfort, particularly in the hands and face.
  • Deficiency of muscle strength.
  • Speech is difficult for me.

Some people have a “preheadache,” or “prodrome,” for up to a few days prior to the actual headache. Constipation, fatigue, stiffness in the neck, and depression are all common side effects during this time.

There may be a postdrome phase that includes fatigue, depression, and difficulties concentrating in addition to the headache itself, which may linger for a few days.

Sleep Deprivation is a Common Trigger

Isn’t it awful, all of this? Migraine sufferers can learn to avoid their triggers if they identify them. While the specific cause of migraines remains a mystery, evidence suggests that timing may play a significant role.

Clinical neurology researcher at the University of Surrey, Dr. Alex Nesbitt, puts it this way:

In order to maintain a state of homeostasis, sleep and wakefulness must be maintained in a precise balance. If this system is overloaded in a way that favors one condition over the other (sleep or wakefulness), the system will attempt to compensate in order to restore equilibrium.

This equilibrium can be upset by a variety of factors, including jet lag, weekend sleep-ins, late nights, and power naps. Perhaps your body is seeking to return to a state of equilibrium by producing migraine attacks. (Someone with a terrible headache who has been receiving less sleep than usual may be obliged to lie down and rest.)

Migraine sufferers are more likely to suffer from insomnia as a result of a lack of sleep.

Links to Sleep Disorders

Chronic migraines are more common than asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy combined in the number of years people have been unable to work due to their symptoms. Aside from a lack of funding for migraine research, headache disorders, in general, are a global health problem.

Research demonstrates a link between severe headaches and sleep difficulties. A study in South Korea found an association between problems and migraines, especially sleeplessness, and a year-over-year increase in headaches (see chart below).

Insomnia and Migraines Often Co-Exist

sleeplessness is the most common disorder among those who suffer from migraines on a regular basis; in fact, most of these patients also suffer from insomnia. While many people who have both sleeplessness and migraines have experienced a minor head injury in the past, this is not always the case.

For migraine sufferers, sleeplessness should come as no surprise because a lack of sleep is a typical trigger for headaches.

Illustration of Difficulty Falling Asleep Researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill polled 147 people with migraine as part of a recent study. Insomnia was the most prevalent complaint among individuals who experienced more than 15 headaches each month. Many individuals found it difficult to get to sleep.

Those who suffer from both conditions may find it difficult to balance sleep with their headaches, which may lead them to try to “sleep it off” by taking a nap. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reveals, however, that this could contribute to chronic insomnia.

Sleep Apnea

As with insomnia, sleep apnea reduces the quality of your sleep and makes you feel less rested when you do get some. When your breathing stops and starts repeatedly while you sleep, you have sleep apnea. Research by the American Academy of Neurology indicated that migraine sufferers are underdiagnosed for apnea.

It’s not uncommon for people to suffer from apnea without even realizing it; it may not wake them up completely, but it can be a major problem that affects their quality of sleep. It’s time to talk to your doctor about whether or not you have apnea if you experience headaches, snore, and wake up feeling exhausted.

Restless Leg Syndrome

If you’ve ever had the want to just move your leg, imagine having that urge for the entire night. Restless leg syndrome sufferers are plagued with this same problem, preventing them from enjoying a good night’s rest.

Those who suffer from sleep apnea and migraines may get relief from their headaches by addressing their sleep apnea. Headaches may actually be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep.

Circadian Rhythm Disorder

Additionally, migraines are linked to sleep disturbances that affect a person’s internal schedule. One of the most basic mechanisms by which we can tell what time of day it is is through our circadian rhythms. When we travel across time zones or advance our clocks for Daylight Savings Time, we may tell something is off because of this phenomenon.

Getting a good night’s sleep can be nearly impossible when a person’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, making it difficult to get a decent night’s sleep. Night shift workers and frequent travelers may experience an increase in migraines as a result of this.

Will Sleeping More Help?

If sleep deprivation is the problem, shouldn’t you try to get as much shut-eye as you can?? However, that’s not quite the case. We previously said that sleep deprivation is the most common cause of a migraine, yet much rest can also throw your body out of whack.

The quality of your sleep is far more essential than the amount when it comes to your health. Cluster headaches are more likely to occur at night, according to research, so attempting to sleep your way out of a headache may not be the best option. With the support of their doctor, persons with problems have noticed an improvement in their migraine frequency by addressing the core cause of their symptoms.

How to Sleep With a Migraine

If you get a migraine, what should you do to deal with it? Healthy bedtime routines can make a big difference.

Migraine sufferers were questioned by researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to see whether there were any trends that emerged. Nearly 80% of those who took part in the study did so while lying in bed, 70% did so to use the restroom in the middle of the night, 60% napped during the day, and 50% took sleeping drugs on a daily basis. For this study, researchers looked at how often and how severe headaches were caused by a variety of different behaviors.

Six weeks of instructions were given to two groups of women, one of whom received a placebo and the other of whom was instructed to adopt new routines before going to bed. After six weeks, the women who changed their nighttime habits reported a significant decrease in the severity and frequency of their headaches. People who had been suffering from persistent migraines no longer do.

Aside from consulting with your physician, you can attempt the following suggestions and tactics.

Have a Consistent Bedtime

At what time of day do you begin to feel exhausted each night? This is perfectly OK; in fact, it’s a great way to start your day. Because of the difficulty in predicting when it is time to sleep, you may have difficulty falling and staying asleep if your bedtime varies.

Your body will learn to self-regulate its biological clock if you go to sleep at the same time every night, including on weekends. Try to obtain at least eight hours of sleep per night.

The Bed Is Just for Sleeping

As tempting as it may be to binge-watch your favorite shows or finally finish that book while lying in bed, these activities may be interfering with your sleep and causing you to suffer from migraines. Reading or listening to music can excite your brain even while you’re watching TV or reading a book, which can disrupt your circadian cycle and cause you to fall asleep.

Practice a Bedtime Routine

Preparing for bed by adhering to a routine can help induce sleepiness. Begin your night with a relaxing bath or shower, listening to an audiobook, or meditating for a few minutes. Relaxing activities can help your brain know it’s time to go to sleep.

6 Sleep Tips for People With Migraine

Migraine attacks and disturbed sleep can be brought on by dietary, lifestyle, and sleep habits changes. Definitely, according to Katherine Hamilton, MD, an assistant professor of clinical neurology and a headache specialist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.

Because the “migraine brain” prefers a stable environment, anything that disrupts your typical routine can trigger a headache, according to Dr. Hamilton.

Migraine and sleep appear to have a bidirectional relationship, according to research. According to a paper published in January 2018 in Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders, headaches can create sleep disturbances and sleep issues can provoke a migraine attack.

Lauren Doyle Strauss, DO, a headache specialist and assistant professor at Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina, argues that excellent sleep habits are one of the most effective techniques for managing migraine.

According to the American Headache Society, changing one’s sleep hygiene can result in a significant reduction in migraines in just a few months or fewer.

Getting a good night’s sleep is easier than you think.

1. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule

According to the American Migraine Foundation, headaches can be triggered by both not getting enough sleep and sleeping excessively. Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night, says the organization

For best results, Hamilton recommends a consistent bedtime and wake-up time each day. A migraine attack is more likely if you have an irregular sleep and wake schedule, according to her.

Dr. Strauss recommends avoiding naps in order to have a better night’s sleep. Because sleep is sometimes the only thing that can relieve people when they have a headache, she admits that this isn’t always simple to do.

Sleeping at night becomes more difficult if you’re taking too many naps during the day.” Keep your bedtime at the same time every night, and limit your afternoon snoozes, she advises.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, bedtime routines such as taking a warm bath, reading, listening to peaceful music, doing yoga, or praying can help you sleep at night.

2. Create the Right Sleep Environment: Dark, Quiet, Cool, and Comfortable

As a neurology program director at Northwell Health and associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Zucker School of Medicine in Great Neck, New York, Dr. Noah Rosen explains, a person’s bed is only for sex and sleep — nothing else.

Dr. Rosen explains, “This means no TV, digital displays, or eating in bed.” Dr.

Rosen advises sleeping in a room that is cool, dark, and quiet. You can use humidified air in the bedroom and weighted blankets or pillows if they help you relax during the winter months, suggests the author.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping your bedroom clutter-free and investing in blackout curtains if you have trouble sleeping in bright light.

3. Turn Off Electronics an Hour Before Bed

Sleep deprivation can be caused by more than just tumultuous thoughts at night. Since your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal sleep-wake schedule) is thrown off by blue light from electronics like TVs and smartphones and tablets, it can be difficult to get to sleep. He advises turning off all electronic devices an hour before going to sleep.

4. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Meals Too Close to Bedtime

Your diet and hydration intake can have an impact on how well you sleep. He recommends the following to have a better night’s sleep:

  • It’s best to avoid drinking if it keeps you awake at night.
  • Caffeine should not be used after a specific time (this varies from person to person).
  • Avoid a substantial meal within three hours of going to bed.
  • Having to use the restroom in the middle of the night is made more difficult by drinking too much fluid after a specific time of day.

5. Practice a Relaxation Technique

According to Rosen, many migraine sufferers have trouble winding down at night. He advises his patients to engage in regular physical activity, deep belly breathing, and biofeedback in order to improve their ability to relax.

Rosen points out that “many research is currently being done on mindfulness and headache.” Practicing yoga poses before going to sleep may be just what the doctor ordered for those with a busy mind and migraines.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in tranquility, try out the guided meditation practice known as “Yoga Nidra,” which is done lying down. Those who practiced an 11-minute yoga nidra meditation demonstrated lower stress, greater well-being, and improved sleep quality compared to a control group in a month-long study published in Current Psychology in September 2020.

The Yoga Nidra Network website offers free recordings of yoga nidra in a variety of languages.

6. Be Cautious About Sleep Aids

The short-term use of sleep aids (medications and plants that make you drowsy) is supported by Rosen, especially if your sleep is becoming more fragmented as you grow older.

If you’re trying to improve your sleep quality, Dr. Axe recommends taking the natural sleep aid melatonin (available over-the-counter).

Nevertheless, he emphasizes that he only endorses “short-term usage” of sleep aids in this context.

Tried Everything and Still Can’t Sleep? You May Have a Sleep Disorder

Snoring, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and chronic insomnia may require the attention of a medical expert or sleep specialist, despite the fact that many sleep disorders can be solved by modifying your behaviors.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, people with migraine are two to eight times more likely than the general population to suffer from sleep disturbances. Chronic migraine sufferers have twice the rate of sleeplessness compared to those who have fewer than 15 headache days per month.

“Migraine headaches might be triggered by a lack of sleep,” adds Rosen. Snoring and sleep apnea have been related to recurrent migraines, according to research.


Can lack of sleep be a cause?

Headaches are frequently brought on by a lack of sleep. No matter how well you sleep at night, it’s possible that you’re not getting the quality of sleep you need. If you think you might have a condition, make an appointment with your doctor.

The best way to maintain your natural system and avoid headaches is to get plenty of sleep every night, regardless of whether or not you suffer from a problem.

Are my medications keeping me up?

The adverse effects of some drugs, such as insomnia, might have a negative impact on one’s sleep. Some of them can even put you to sleep. Consult your physician about the potential that one of these conditions is the cause of your migraines.

Can you suggest ways to improve my sleep habits?

Be sure to ask your doctor for additional advice in addition to the tips and tricks above. Your doctor will be able to make a more accurate diagnosis, prescribe medicine, and discuss alternative treatment choices because he or she has access to all of your medical records.

Could cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) help?

Behavioral therapy has been found to be the most effective treatment for 30 to 60 percent of patients. An important part of this therapy is learning how to manage stress, identify migraine triggers, and make physical lifestyle changes (such as eating, exercising, and sleep).

As a popular misperception, CBT is used in place of medication, however, it can be used in conjunction with any other treatment. Psychiatrists and doctors can work together to identify the best treatment for you.


Migraines and sleep are inextricably linked, and finding the right balance might be trickier than you might imagine. I get migraines if I don’t get enough sleep, so I aim to get at least eight hours of shut-eye each night.

Try establishing better nighttime routines in conjunction with the advice from your doctor if you think this is the case for you.

Having a migraine is a pain. However, you don’t have to endure this pain for the rest of your life.

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