A recent investigation by scholars from the University of Arizona Health Sciences has revealed a correlation between inadequate sleep and occurrences of migraine attacks, implying that enhancing sleep quality might reduce migraine incidents among individuals with this condition.

Many migraine sufferers often report experiencing sleep-related issues, such as insomnia, difficulties in falling or staying asleep, poor sleep quality, excessive daytime sleepiness, awakening due to migraines, and being compelled to sleep because of migraine-induced headaches. Up until now, it remained unclear whether poor sleep caused migraines or vice versa.

Principal investigator Frank Porreca, PhD, who serves as the research director for the Comprehensive Center for Pain & Addiction and as a professor of pharmacology at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, commented, “The relationship between sleep and migraine has long been acknowledged. However, previous investigations relied heavily on subjective patient-reported data. In our study, we quantitatively assessed sleep in preclinical models and discovered that while migraine-like pain does not disrupt sleep, disrupted sleep significantly increases the likelihood of migraine attacks in migraine patients.”

Porreca led a team of researchers who employed preclinical mouse models to examine sleep disturbances, as the sleep patterns of mice closely resemble those of humans, including cycles of deep sleep, REM sleep, and light sleep. Sleep was evaluated using electroencephalogram recordings and visual observations.

The findings indicated that when mice experienced sleep deprivation, they were more prone to experiencing migraine-like pain. However, migraine-like pain did not interfere with regular sleep patterns.

Porreca highlighted that sleep deprivation can result from various factors, including stress. To isolate the impact of sleep on migraines in their study, the research team provided mice with novel objects to explore to prevent them from falling asleep.

“Mice are naturally inclined to explore novel objects. They feel compelled to investigate,” Porreca remarked. “This phenomenon is reminiscent of how teenagers often experience sleep deprivation due to excessive phone usage. Sleep experts commonly advise against keeping electronic devices in the bedroom to ensure optimal sleep hygiene.”

For individuals afflicted with migraines, adopting practices such as reducing electronic device usage before bedtime and adhering to other sleep hygiene guidelines could serve as simple yet effective strategies to mitigate the likelihood of migraine attacks.

“Early morning ranks among the most common times for migraine attacks,” Porreca stated. “Given that migraines disproportionately affect women, with a ratio of 3 to 1 compared to men, and the majority of affected women being of childbearing age, it’s plausible that many migraine sufferers are also parents. Waking up with a migraine attack adds further stress to an already challenging time of the day. Improved sleep hygiene is paramount and is likely to decrease the frequency of migraine occurrences.”

According to the American Migraine Foundation, over 39 million individuals in the United States are estimated to suffer from migraines, though this number is likely underestimated due to the considerable number of undiagnosed and untreated cases.


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