Did you know that nearly half of all Migraine attacks occur in the early morning hours? We often focus on food and environmental triggers to the exclusion of sleep quality, but the importance of healthy sleep hygiene can’t be overstated. People with Migraine need consistency and routine much more than the average person. Our brains require it. Any disruption of that routine can be a trigger, so it’s worth the effort to maintain consistency as much as possible. While we can’t control for every variable, maintaining healthy sleep hygiene is one way we can protect against future attacks.
Sleep Hygiene Essentials
Successful Migraine management requires more than just medical treatment. There are lifestyle factors involved, too. One of the most important is sleep hygiene. Incorporating these healthy habits can improve our sleep quality and reduce our sleep-related Migraine triggers.
1. Darkness promotes sleep.
Keep the bedroom dark. Any source of light can disrupt the release of melatonin, triggering wakefulness. Using black-out curtains, covering digital clocks, and the use of a sleep mask are all good strategies. Don’t forget to avoid watching TV or using a cell phone or computer in bed as these can also keep us awake.
2. White noise may be your friend.
Noise can keep us awake, too. However, some people find that white noise, such as the hum from a fan or humidifier can enhance sleep. Experiment with ear plugs, fans, or other white noise to see which is most beneficial.
3. Keep it cool.
The ideal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees Farenheit. Avoid getting too hot or too cold.
4. Get comfortable.
A comfortable mattress and pillow can greatly improve your sleep quality. Body position (especially neck position) is especially important. The wrong sleep position can cause back pain and trigger migraine attacks.
5. Routine is essential.
Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day, regardless of weekends or holidays. Try to avoid sleeping too much or too little. It’s important to give ourselves enough time to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. By creating a relaxing routine in the hours before bedtime, we prepare our bodies for sleep.
- Unplug by turning off the TV, walking away from the computer, and putting down that cell phone
- Skip that glass of wine or cigarette
- Avoid eating heavy or rich foods
- Limit fluids
- Turn off the lights
- Use the bed only for sleep and sex
6. Daytime habits matter, too.
- Get plenty of exposure to natural light during the day.
This promotes the suppression of melatonin, making it less likely to experience daytime sleepiness. If we must nap during the day, limit those naps to 20-30 minutes.
- Get at least 10 minutes of exercise each day.
Some people find that exercise helps to promote sleep, while others find it too stimulating. Experiment with the timing of exercise for best results.
- Watch your caffeine intake.
Too much caffeine, especially late in the day, can disrupt sleep. Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon or evening to promote a restful night’s sleep.
Can’t sleep? Try these tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- If it’s been at least 20 minutes, get out of bed.
- Avoid turning on lights.
- Avoid any stimulating activity (TV, computer, etc.).
- Return to bed as soon as you begin to feel sleepy.
If we’re still struggling, then it may be time to talk to our doctor. Undiagnosed sleep disorders can disrupt sleep quality, even with healthy sleep hygiene. Most sleep disorders can be diagnosed by a sleep study and treated effectively. If the study is negative, a few sessions with a sleep psychologist may help improve sleep hygiene, sleep quality, and reduce the risk of sleep-triggered Migraine attacks.
- Rains, J. Sleep Disorders and Headache. American Migraine Foundation. Accessed January 12, 2017.
- Healthy Sleep Tips. National Sleep Foundation. Accessed January 12, 2017.
- Healthy Sleep Habits. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Accessed January 12, 2017.