The Connection Between Migraines and Sleep Problems


Sleep and migraine have a complicated relationship, and sleep disorders and migraine are frequently co-occurring conditions. While lack of sleep triggers many people, migraine patients use sleep as a migraine treatment.

There is also a link between sleep quality and migraine frequency—the more migraines you have, the more likely you are to have sleep disturbances.

Specific Sleep Disorders and MigraineInsomnia

Migraine is associated with an increased risk of insomnia, and the majority of chronic migraine sufferers report having insomnia almost every night. Insomnia is also thought to be a risk factor for more frequent migraines. Having both migraine and insomnia increases your chances of developing depression and anxiety disorders.

Insomnia treatment has been shown to improve migraine symptoms, so speak with your healthcare provider about treatment if you have insomnia symptoms.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It happens when you breathe too shallowly or stop breathing periodically while sleeping, causing frequent awakenings.

Although OSA does not appear to be more common in migraineurs than in the general population, it does seem to contribute to more severe migraines. One theory is that migraineurs, who are already sensitive to pain, have a more difficult time coping with the head pain caused by reduced oxygen intake during the night.

Because treating OSA may reduce the severity and frequency of your migraines, as well as your risk for a variety of other medical problems, speak with your healthcare provider about having a sleep study if you are experiencing symptoms.


When you have the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which is frequently associated with migraines, you may grind your teeth while sleeping, which is known as bruxism. Bruxism has been linked to both episodic and chronic migraine, though the exact nature of the link is unknown.

TMD and bruxism, according to one theory, activate the trigeminal nerve, a cranial nerve thought to be involved in migraine.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Studies have discovered a higher risk of restless legs syndrome (RLS) in migraineurs, as well as a link between migraine and more severe symptoms of RLS, a condition that causes leg discomfort.

Both conditions appear to involve a dysfunction of the system that releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in movement, memory, emotion, thinking, and motivation.


There are several treatments available for sleep disorders and migraines separately, but one, in particular, might be a good option for both conditions.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi) entails behavioral interventions that teach you how to relax, develop better sleeping habits, and reframe your perception of sleep. So far, studies have shown that it is both safe and effective, even over time.

A 2016 study of CBTi in people suffering from both insomnia and chronic migraine discovered that migraines were significantly reduced after three 30-minute biweekly sessions. In addition, the participants slept better than the control subjects. In contrast to the control group, both migraine and sleep symptoms improved after the procedure.

The Bottom Line

If you have migraines or headaches and suspect you have a sleep disorder, see your doctor to get a diagnosis for both. You may require additional testing, such as a sleep study. It's also a good idea to keep a headache diary and a sleep log for at least 24 hours before visiting your doctor, as both can be extremely helpful in the diagnosis process. Mention any sleep aids you may be using, as well as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, which can all contribute to drowsiness. Bring your headache diary and sleep log to your doctor's appointment so you can compare patterns. 

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Monday, 25 September 2023