Migraine Quiz

Sleep Disorders

Sleep Disorders and Headache

Sleep disturbances have been found to be comorbid with chronic daily headache. Sleep disturbances are common in migraine sufferers as well, but have not been studied adequately in large population-based studies. Thus no comment can be made as yet about whether any particular kind of sleep disorder formally relates to migraines, although many migraine sufferers know they can't skimp on sleep without getting a migraine attack.

It is known that morning headaches can arise from sleep apnea, although morning headaches can certainly have other causes, such as bruxism—the clenching or grinding of teeth. There are many types of sleep disorders in addition to sleep apnea, including simple insomnia, sleep interruption due to depression or anxiety, and others. Deterioration in the quality of sleep can be caused by nocturnal movement disorders, such as periodic limb movements and restless leg syndrome, which is more common in migraine.

Here are four key questions you can ask yourself about the quality of your sleep:

  1. Is your sleep Restorative?
  2. Do you have Excessive daytime sleepiness, tiredness or fatigue?
  3. Do you habitually Snore?
  4. Is your Total sleep Time sufficient?

(notice how these spell R-E-S-T?)

Why Sleep is Important

Adequate sleep is an important factor in controlling all types of pain, including your headaches. Sleep deprivation is a migraine trigger for many people. If you are concerned about the quality of your sleep, it is a good idea to either keep a sleep diary, or to add space to your headache diary to track your sleep.


1. Rains JC, Poceta JS. Sleep and Headache Disorders: Clinical Recommendations for Headache Management. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. 2006;46(s3):S147-S148.

2. Rains JC, Poceta JS. Sleep-related headache syndromes. Semin Neurol. 2005;25(1):69-80.

3. Moldofsky H. Sleep and pain. Sleep Med Rev. 2001;5(5):385-396. 4. Rains JC. Chronic Headache and Potentially Modifiable Risk Factors: Screening and Behavioral Management of Sleep Disorders. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. 2008;48(1):32-39.

by Christina Peterson, MD

updated Feb 8, 2010