Insomnia and Headaches
Sleep habits are an overlooked trigger of headaches and migraines. We regularly hear about sleep habits affecting areas such as concentration and memory but the effects on headaches and migraines are not as well known and publicized. The reality, however, is that a poor night's sleep can lead to headaches. In fact, where insomnia exists, headaches may be chronic. The lack of understanding into the relationship between headaches and insomnia means that many people may continue to suffer from headaches while their insomnia is untreated and continues to trigger daily discomfort.
What is Insomnia?Insomnia is a sleep disorder that involves one or both of the following:
- Inability to fall asleep
- Inability to remain asleep
Insomnia affects enormous numbers of people and when it occurs alongside headaches, it is important to investigate whether or not the insomnia is related to the pattern of headaches. For some people, it may be unrelated but for those where the two are linked, treatment can mean a better night's sleep and a reduction or elimination of headaches.
Sleeping PatternsResearch is still ongoing into the relationship between headaches and sleep, but it is thought that excess sleep can contribute to headaches just as not enough sleep can trigger headaches, particularly those that occur upon awakening each morning. In the same way that sleep patterns vary greatly from one person to another, the effect of sleep on headaches can vary a great deal as well.
PostureWhere a lack of sleep occurs alongside poor posture, headaches can occur. This is true in cases where, for example, a person works long hours at a poorly designed and uncomfortable workstation. Extended time awake that occurs as a result of insomnia, particularly when coupled with long working hours and poor posture, can lead to tension headaches. Obtaining enough sleep each night on a comfortable and supportive mattress can provide relief for those who are experiencing headaches.
CaffeinePeople who compensate for a lack of sleep by ingesting large amounts of caffeine though coffee or supplement form may indirectly suffer from headaches as a reaction to the caffeine. If you think this may be the case, let your doctor know that you are suffering from insomnia and also explain that you are using caffeine as a coping mechanism. Your doctor may be able to suggest better ways to handle your insomnia and stay alert in the day. It's important that you try to cut back on caffeine slowly to see if your headaches improve and to also reduce your chances of suffering from withdrawal headaches.
Although people who suffer from headaches often say that it affects their sleep, the opposite may, in fact, be true. A lack of consistent, quality sleep could be causing headaches and migraines. If you suffer from both insomnia and headaches, it's important to see your doctor about your symptoms and sleeping patterns. It may be the case that by treating your insomnia, the headaches are similarly treated. You could also benefit from learning coping mechanisms that don't involve stimulants such as caffeine, which can trigger headaches. A good night's sleep is important for many reasons and if you suffer from headaches, it may also be the key to obtaining headache relief.