Today is the first day of the Migraine World Summit 2019. I look forward to the Migraine World Summit every year, because it provides such a wealth of up to date information that you do not either have the time to talk to your doctor about, or that your doctor may not even know! https://www.migraineworldsummit.com/ This post is no different because it lists in detail how good sleep is essential to help prevent migraine. The interview I chose to cover today was with Dr. Christine Lay, Associate Prof of Neurology at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Lay had indicated that almost 80 percent of the US has some trouble with sleep at some point in their lives! That’s 8 out of 10 people! Science has recently discovered that our brain is more active during sleep than we originally thought. The brain uses the deep sleep part of the sleep cycle to “collect the garbage” that it had accumulated during the day and disposes of it. Insomnia and other sleep problems can eventually cause serious health problems beyond migraine such as dementia, heart disease, diabetes, and trouble with pain control. What trouble with pain control means for migraineurs is that you can get caught in this viscous cycle of insomnia causing you to feel more migraine pain and then that causing more trouble sleeping, which then leads to more pain. How many of you have been stuck in that cycle before? I know I have!
Dr. Lay also indicated that in studies migraine patients were much more likely to have poor quality or shortened deep sleep cycles. Making sleep even more essential to prevent migraine! How do you know if you’re getting quality sleep? Do you wake up refreshed? Can you get through your day without a nap? Do you have trouble concentrating? All of these are signs that you may not be getting quality sleep.
Stay away from
If you have trouble sleeping Dr Lay recommended against the following to help your sleep
- No caffeine after 12-2pm
- No screens in bed including e-readers and phones
- No alcohol before bed. Alcohol interferes with your deep sleep cycle, despite the feeling that it relaxes you
- No naps. Naps prevent you from getting to sleep at a time and when it has the most benefit to your health.
- No exercise 5-6 hours before sleep.
- No sleeping pills—Sleeping pills can worsen your migraines and increase your chance of dementia.
In order to help you sleep better, Dr. Lay recommends
- Meditation—Recent science shows that meditation actively calms the brain and forces more slow-wave sleep. It’s also been proven to help migraine overall.
- Exercise—A simple walk in nature is not only very good for your general health but can be helpful for your sleep as well.
- Use your bed only for sleep and making love. Sex actually releases hormones that are beneficial to your sleep.
- Melatonin—Migraine patients have a delayed onset of melatonin. You can try melatonin rich foods such as bananas, walnuts, almonds, and tart cherries. You could also try a melatonin supplement. Lay recommends starting with 3mg and increasing up to 10mg. But she cautions to make sure you get a really good quality brand, as there is little to no regulation for these supplements. Two brands I like are Pure Encapsulations and Designs for Health. Both have been recommended to me by top functional medical doctors.
- Ferritin-This is something new that I learned! Often people who have restless leg syndrome have low ferritin levels. Restless leg syndrome can cause sleep issues. Even if you have a low normal ferritin level, you could speak to your doctor about ferritin supplementation. A good ferritin levels helps promote good deep sleep cycles necessary to help “take the garbage out.”
- Magnesium—Magnesium is clinically proven supplement that is helpful for migraine. Magnesium has a calming effect on the brain. You can take the supplement in pill form a few hours before sleep. If your stomach is bothered by magnesium supplements there are also the options of using a powdered form, magnesium oil rubbed into the skin, or an Epsom salt bath.
Finally, Dr. Lay recommends that if you do have insomnia, there are many online programs including Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia, that could help. Fixing your sleep will not only help your migraines in the present but it can also help your long-term health as well.
What are your going to try?
Of all these recommendations I already have included many of them in my routine, however I frequently feel more tired than I think I should on 8 hours of sleep a night. I do read my kindle quite often before sleep. I am going to try to eliminate that as well as try mediating before sleep instead. Alexa now links with Headspace for those of you who are interested in a techy handsfree solution. I tell Alexa to turn on a meditation while in bed and drift off to sleep from there. So of all these things, which are you going to try? Please comment below! Just know that your sleep is essential to prevent migraine. And as always if you’d like some further help around figuring out your sleep, I am happy to help!