Is snoring giving you a headache?

Sleep problems are common in people with migraines. A study published last year in the Journal of Headache and Pain reported that:

  • Migraine sufferers were three times more likely to experience daytime drowsiness compared with individuals without headaches.
  • Severe sleep disturbances were five times more likely among migraine sufferers.

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder with abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses are called “apnea.” People with sleep apnea often snore loudly, have interrupted sleep, and feel tired after a full night’s sleep. Sleep apnea is most common in men over 65 years old and people who are overweight, smoke, and have high blood pressure. A community survey published earlier this year in the Journal of Headache and Pain failed to find a link between migraine and sleep apnea.

A new study in the journal Cephalalgia, however, has found an important link between snoring and migraine. Headache patterns were evaluated in 268 people with habitual snoring. Nearly one in every four snorers reported experiencing morning headaches at least one day a week. And those individuals with morning headache had a worse overall quality of life. Among individuals with morning headaches, one in five described their headaches as migraines. The significance of this finding was highlighted in another study published this year in the journal Neurology. That study found that sleep apnea treatment with continuous positive airway pressure—called CPAP—not only improved the sleep disturbance—it also improved migraines. In that study, 10 percent of sleep apnea patients had migraines. After the eleven patients with migraine and apnea in the study were treated with CPAP, their sleep quality improved. Furthermore, 10 patients became migraine free and the other patient had a decrease in headaches from daily to twice a month.

So what’s the bottom line? Having migraine probably doesn’t put you at increased risk for developing sleep apnea. But if you have migraines, feel tired after a full night’s sleep, and snore, you should talk to your doctor about your sleep to see if your sleep problems might be aggravating your migraines.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (19)
  • AudreyB
    2 years ago

    About a year ago, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and began wearing a mouth guard. I had no idea I wasn’t sleeping at night, despite being tired all the time and having a host of conditions–obesity, depression, migraines, IBS– that have been linked to apnea.

    Since then, I’ve lost 35 pounds. The mouth guard and 2 strong daily probiotics have ended the IBS. And I almost never get a migraine any more.

    I just wish I’d learned all this before I was in my mid-fifties.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi AudreyB,
    Wow, this is remarkable! I too am so sorry to hear how many years it took for this discovery, but thrilled to hear of these tremendous improvements! Don’t look back on those dark days and try to enjoy your new lease on life! Thanks for sharing this with us!! -Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • VickiG
    4 years ago

    I’ve recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea. I frequently woke up with headaches that would turn into a full-blown migraine if I couldn’t get the headache relieved quickly. I’ve only been on the CPAP for a week but I can already tell a difference in the frequency of a.m. headaches!

  • Gerry Fryer
    7 years ago

    I have had migraines for decades and was recently diagnosed with severe sleep apnea after a year of sleeplessness. Using a CPAP has reduced my headaches by 30-40%, so that I now get about 6 per month. Big improvement.

  • Dr Marcus author
    7 years ago

    Gonzo — make sure you follow up with your doctor ASAP. Low oxygen can be very serious. Make sure you get this taken care of.

  • gonzo
    7 years ago

    Two nights ago my dr did a pulse ox overnight. I was at 78% for 6 hours. When the guy got the results he immediately came and checked me out and dropped off o2 i have wear every night.

    I guess my heart was racing all night to keep up..i was gunning for a heart attack at 30.

  • Melissa Todd
    7 years ago

    My mother said I used to stop breathing for short periods when I was little and I snore like a truck driver. I constantly feel like I haven’t slept well (or at all). Next time I go to the doctor, I will ask her about it.

  • Migraine.com
    7 years ago

    Good luck Melissa, let us know how your appointment goes!

  • Maureen Baxter Douglas
    7 years ago

    I don’t snore or have apneas but I also am always tired..and a chronic migraine sufferer.

  • Sandy Strouse
    7 years ago

    OH MY GOSH YOU DONT SNORE????? I remember not being able to get to sleep because you are so loud lol i think we were late to school alot

  • Michelle Thacker
    7 years ago

    I don’t snore or have sleep apnea, but I DO feel tired after a full nights sleep.

  • Karen Stanley Haack
    8 years ago

    Yes you are right! Sleep apnea does cause migraine headaches…..

  • Jodi Krzyzak
    8 years ago

    If you have sleep apnea check any medications you are taking for side effects. Some anti-depressants cause sleep apnea. Changing the medication may resolve both problems.

  • Diana Lee
    8 years ago

    My sleep problem is weird: I’m extremely active and vocal in my sleep. I get into fights almost every single night. It’s strange.

  • Diana Lee
    8 years ago

    Thanks for mentioning that. I suppose as with everything else diagnosis can be elusive. I’m getting set up with a sleep study in hopes of getting more information about my weird sleep patterns.

  • Aaron Seacat
    8 years ago

    One thing to be aware of – most sleep specialist are Pulmonongists – and they are great at detecting Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) but when it comes to the 80+ other sleep disorders…. not so good. This is a blanket statement of course, that doesn’t apply to all but the experience from our clinic is that LOTS of people are told their sleep study was “normal” when there are real problems that can be fixed.

  • Diana Lee
    8 years ago

    Yeah, somehow I’ve never been to a sleep specialist, but I’m going to bring that up with my local neuro at my appointment tomorrow. Might as well give it a shot!

  • Katie Howze Powell
    8 years ago

    My dad is the same way…gets in fights with people in his dreams, yells out things. He has thrown himself off the bed before, etc. But of course we can’t get him to a sleep specialist.

  • Aaron Seacat
    8 years ago

    The Headache Center at MidAmerica Neuroscience Institute has studied this and presented an abstract poster presentation at the American Academy of Neurology. To read about this research as well as the investigator’s thoughts on why side-sleeping (in attempt to reduce snoring) is the underlying problem follow this link. http://bit.ly/eFQ5n2

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