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Migraine Dreams and Nightmares

“Do you have migraines when you dream?,” a friend asked several years ago. It was a question I’d never considered and was relieved to discover that the answer is very rarely (that I remember). Those hours of escape have probably helped keep me sane.

Though I generally don’t dissect my dreams for meaning, my friend’s question led to some interesting revelations of how migraine functions in my life.

When I do have migraine attacks in my dreams, they are never at their worst, but are on the way to massive pain and I’m searching for a way to stop them. Thankfully, these dreams only happen a couple times a year.

Quite frequently, though, migraine enters my dreams as a source of anxiety. Either I’m facing a problem that wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have migraine or it is preventing me from doing something I want or need to do. This isn’t surprising, since I feel like migraine holds me back nearly every day.

Far more interesting than migraine as a topic in my dreams is that when I have a migraine attack in real life, my dreams become nightmares. They are full of danger and horror of all sorts. I also have bed-drenching night sweats, which may be a migraine symptom or because of the nightmares. Only since my migraine attacks have let up in the last few months have I been able to determine that I don’t have nightmares (or night sweats) on migraine-free nights.

I’m fascinated to learn what other migraineurs experience. Do you have migraine attacks in your dreams? What about nightmares during migraines? Do migraines figure into your dreams in another way, like in anxiety dreams?

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

  • Jens
    2 years ago

    I have tried to connect my migraines to everything else but never to my dreams. I have had dreams that I had a migraine and woken with one. I have had dreams of other severe pains (being stabbed or shot) and I bet I could connect them to morning migraines as well. I have very vivid dreams most nights. If I am talking in my dream I will talk out loud. My husband says it sounds like I am talking backwards even though I hear it the correct way. It freaks out my 12 year old son. I hate the impact my health conditions have on my family. Also, if I reach to pick something up in my dream I will move my arm while sleeping. I have always attributed this to meds but maybe not. The worst experience I have ever had happened last week. A seemingly normal (for me) dream turned into one of the worst nightmares I have ever had. The only dreams that have been worse are the ones in which my family is hurt. I would go in and out of sleep and each time the dream would worsen. By the time I finally forced myself to get up I went into a full blown panic attack. One of the scariest experiences ever. I have never had one before and I thought I was going to be put into a mental institution never to get out again. I sure hope that was a one and done experience. I think I will pay more to attention to the severity of my migraines in correlation with my dreams.

  • hannahjoyk98
    2 years ago

    I have had migraines my whole life and almost always do they correlate with my dreams. I often dream that I have been shot in the head, but am unable to die. Or that I have been stabbed, or things of that nature.

  • DJStolle
    3 years ago

    I have migraines in my nightmares and also night sweats when the migraine happens. I get a runny nose. I get loose bowels. I cannot think. I can’t focus. Migraines need to be seen as the disability that it is. There is no cure. I do not want this to continue to control my life. But, there is no cure. I have had hallucinations. I have had broken off branches from rose bushes with my bare hands, during a migraine, and did not feel the thorns. It wasn’t until the migraine subsided that I noticed the cuts, scratches and imbedded thorns. I have taken baths fully clothed during migraines. I have blacked out during migraines. There are days upon days that I will never remember because of the pain of migraines. My friends and family members can recognize the start of one before I can by the way I act and/or look. There is no way to fake these. These are not “bad headaches”. These are not an excuse not to work or play or pray. These are soul crushing, life altering, and relationship destroying monsters. I just want them to stop…

  • Jens
    2 years ago

    While I don’t have all of the effects you have I wholeheartedly agree that they should be considered debilitating. I am fighting that fight right now and it is frustrating to be trying to find successful treatments without all of the awful side effects while trying to convince people that these “headaches” cause so many other issues. I will be praying for you.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi 27nmsws, thanks for being here and sharing your story with us. The things you’ve experienced can be frightening, please know that you’re not alone. We’re here when you need us, to share information, provide support and community, or just to listen. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Liz Flynn
    3 years ago

    Migraines have not been a feature in my dreams. However, once in a while during a severe long-lasting migraine I have very memorable and intense dreams. They’re are not frightening, they are very interesting to review, sometimes they are beautiful and sometimes they are humorous. The dreams generally come just before I round the corner out of the very worst of the migraine.

  • Majikjoyce
    2 years ago

    I totally agree with you on this. I too dream after a long bout of migraines and have night sweat/ urinating on myself . Walking into walls doors whatever has been there for years.My favorites is the brain fog. It feels like I’m in a dream look down on my saying ” get your ass up and do something more productive than just laying there in piain. Then this big sledgehammer hits the dream of me in the head and I saw ” why don’t I get up and do something productive. Don’t be so hard on yourself you . Sorry losing track of my thoughts must go. Peace and blessings.

  • Still Smiling
    3 years ago

    Interesting article – I’ve always had dreams where migraine is prevalent… Sometimes I wake and find its just a dream, other times I wake to find I have actual head pain/migraine. Most interestingly for me is that I have potential nightmares/fevered dreams in the midst of a migraine attack… If an attack is particularly bad, my brain converts what I can physically see into nightmarish objects – I don’t even have to be asleep for this to happen: the most memorable is I was staying at my in laws and had an attack. I was lying on their sofa recovering when my brain converted this particular plate into a nightmarish face and it haunted me all evening. Once I’d recovered, I discovered said horrifying face/plate was actually a really pretty Spanish lady design – God only knows what my brain was up to. To this day, I won’t look directly at the plate/that corner for fear of intense flashbacks. This was the weirdest/intensest nightmare moment but this happens most every time with my worst attacks. And I reiterate, I don’t even have to be asleep. Not sure if they are fevered dreams/nightmares or even hallucinations. Either way my brain is up to something dodgy!

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Still Smiling! I can see how that could be pretty frightening. Maybe you were experiencing a Visual Aura. Have you discussed this episode with your doctor?

    Thanks for being part of the community, and for sharing your experience. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Filek
    5 years ago

    I have had many dreams where I am in a situation that results in a severe head injury, but I don’t die. When I wake up I have a severe migraine.
    For example one dream I was in the army on the front line and kept getting shot in the head, but didn’t die, even though it hurt like heck, so I had to keep on fighting.
    Or I get attacked by a gang and they keep hitting me in the head with a bat, but I just won’t lose consciousness! Eventually I wake up with a severe headache.

  • Dave La Ravia
    6 years ago

    I have been talking about this very thing with my wife for about the last 7 years or so–I actually started to remember bits and pieces of my dreams about 7 years ago, which I really had not been able to recall previously. What I discovered is that when I have very “active” dreams or nightmares, my migraines are much more severe,I am much more tired and in a “fog”, and I am definitely more irritable, and the pain usually lasts longer than normal.

    I Googled the relationship between active dreams and migraines a few years ago, and there was not nearly as much information on this subject as there is right now–and I really appreciate the detailed information and comments on this website.

    I have endured migraines since I was 3 years old–I am now 48 and I deal with about 20+ days per month of chronic and severe migraines–adding to the severity, I believe, are active dreams, sleep apnea, and a cerebral AVM that I was diagnosed with back in 2005.

    We look forward to seeing more comments and medical information relating active dreams/nightmares to migraines and their severity.

  • Maggy M
    6 years ago

    When I have nightmares or frustrating dreams, I wake up in the morning and directly have a migraine. Sometimes the migraine itself just wakes me up because of severe pain! In my case, stress is my ultimate migraine trigger. A stressful nightmare makes me suffer from severe migraine headache the next day.
    Luckily I’m not a heavy sleeper so now I’m just trying to wake myself up from nightmares as a relief!

  • CC
    6 years ago

    I have cervicalgia and OH, YES, I get nightmares from/with migraines. I’m a vivid dreamer and have had nightmares I can remember even today. Involving death, assaults, tragic accidents, and crying which specifically makes my migraines exponentially more painful. The ones I dread the most are the migraine nightmares…about migraines. I can feel the migraine in the dream growing worse and worse. The pain is excrutiating and often I’m trying to find my medication in the dream. When I wake up, the migraine is so entrenched that my standard rescue meds are like Tic-Tacs. I can’t care for myself at all. The smallest movement brings on violent vomiting for days, during which time I can take neither my base or rescue meds. These are the days I understand people a hundred years or so ago, taking large drill bits and boring into the brain to let the migraine out. Over the years, I’ve begun to recognize that the migraine in the dream is real and wake myself to take meds before it gets worse. Sleep used to be sanctuary from my migraines. Now even it belong to the chronic pain.

  • shroomgirl
    6 years ago

    I often have nightmares or frustrating dreams when getting a migraine while I am sleeping. The dreams usually focus on things that give me stress in my waking life (ie trying to do math problems, trying to get tasks done and I am never able to finish them) The dreams are almost always repetitive. At some point in the dream I realize I am dreaming and know that I have a migraine starting so I can wake myself up to take meds.
    I also have VERY vivid dreams even when I don’t have a migraine. They tend to be epic stories with lots of detail and I can usually remember them when I wake up.

  • Sara
    6 years ago

    Thanks for bringing this up! I have constant dreams that I cannot attend high school classes due to chronic migraines and will not graduate. Then I keep thinking, they are going to take away my bachelors and masters degrees when they find out I didn’t graduate from college. It’s kind of funny when I am awake, but while the dream is happening, it produces so much anxiety that I don’t think I get much restful sleep.

  • migraine mistress
    6 years ago

    Kerrie~ a very interesting topic that I’ve pondered for decades. Ever since I can remember, now that I think abt it, at abt the onset of my migraines at 14, I started having very bizarre dreams of all kinds … some are fantastical, others terrifying (which later in life became periods of nite terrors). You name it, I do it in my dreams. I do not, however, recall having a dream about being in a migraine ~ never really thought abt.that! I’ve even had one out-of-body experience dream which I can still remember vividly to this day, even though it was probably 15 yrs. ago.
    Most interesting to me, however, is the fact that my father, a migraine sufferer also, had very bizarre, vivid frightening dreams. I’ve often wished a study would be done on the connection btwn migraines and bizarre dreaming and if there’s a genetic component involved like there seems to be btwn my father and I. Thanks for the great article. Yet another day … time to grab a Maxalt as migraine is coming on strong and see if I can accomplish something today before a 10 hr. work day tmr. Ech!

  • migraine mistress
    6 years ago

    Wendy, I am truly overjoyed for you! I am also 60, have had migraines since 14 and am beginning to feel like I’m going to be in the Guinness Book of Records for oldest woman w/ consistent migraines. I pray that I can say the words u did in your post.

  • shroomgirl
    6 years ago

    *now* 36 lol

  • shroomgirl
    6 years ago

    We can all join a sad little group! I have had migraines since I was 2yo (I am not 36) and they show no sign of stopping. 😛

  • Wendy Corbin
    6 years ago

    My dreams have always consisted of looking for pain relief, almost funny if it wasn’t so sad! This is unrelated but I must share that at 60 years old and 30 years of almost daily migraines, they are gone. I don’t know why and don’t care at this point. It has been almost a year without pain. I wish I could give this away to all of my fellow sufferers the destruction over the years has been unbelievable. My best to each and everyone of you.
    Wendy Corbin

  • Kim Smith Lawson
    6 years ago

    I have the most horrible, unspeakable nightmares when I have migraines. I’ve awakened in such unimaginable fear, I have to convince myself, as an adult they aren’t real. The electric storm pain in my brain can become lightening flashes in my dreams, which strike me, for instance, making me in my dream think I’m experiencing death. That one was the scariest one I remember. Others have been very disturbing as well, but not quite as bad as that one. Horror movies can’t compare to my nightmares for me.

  • kellismith
    6 years ago

    I honestly don’t remember ever having a dream where in the dream I was experiencing a migraine. Thank goodness… dreaming is a place I can escape it. But I can say for certain that migraines effect my dreams. I absolutely have similar experiences to Kerrie’s and several of the other posters in regard to the nightmares and anxiety dreams. I have what for me are “nightmares” when I try to sleep with a more severe migraine – or it comes on as I’m sleeping. If it’s on the mild side, I seem to be able to sleep and have somewhat normal dreams (I’ll wake up and think, boy that was an odd dream and my head kind of hurts – but not be freaked out). But, if it’s more severe pain (already bad before I try to sleep or I wake up and it’s raging), I have horrible nightmares that are the anxiety (not horror) type. I.e. I’m with my niece and nephew when they’re younger and suddenly I can’t find them and I’m panicked; someone in my family been in a horrible accident and may die and I can’t get to the hospital, one of my dogs has been stolen from my backyard as I watch but can’t catch up, etc. I don’t have a lot of nightmares normally, and didn’t make this connection until maybe the last 5 years… but now it’s pretty clear… something is going on in my brain during these dreams that’s not going on when I don’t have a migraine. Very interesting stuff.

  • Vicki
    6 years ago

    I did once have a dream that was just about having a migraine. I think it might have just simply been anxiety about getting one. Thankfully, during my dream, I realized I was dreaming and started psyching myself down to relax. Thankfully it worked!!

  • Candy Meacham
    6 years ago

    When my headaches enter my dreams, which they do, it’s usually because I’m beginning or have already begun to have a migraine. I finally wake up – with a headache well underway. Not a good way to start the day or have your night interrupted.

  • 1ys5kk0
    4 years ago

    Me too!

  • kathykathy
    6 years ago

    I haven’t had migranes in my dreams, but my head has hurt and I have walked up to people and complained about it hurting. If I have an aura about 6am just as I am starting to wake my dreams are very weird. You poor thing!

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi Kerrie,

    I thought this was very interesting. I’ve never had migraines in my dreams, thankfully, but have woken up with one.

    Having them during the day is bad enough. To dream about them….well, that is just WRONG!

  • arusha
    6 years ago

    When I sleep during a migraine I always have nightmares, really weird disturbing dreams. Sometimes I float between waking and sleeping and the bad dream stays with me, almost as if I’m delirious. I’ve never dreamt of having a migraine though.

  • pooh2you
    6 years ago

    I am so happy to know that I am not alone in having migraines in my dreams. I do not have them often, and most often when I wake up I still have the migraine. I find that when I do have a migraine like this I wake up with my teeth clenched very tightly, I have been been more “active” while sleeping (moving around more), have had strange dreams and have been sweating a lot. Thanks for your story!!

  • DebbyJ56
    6 years ago

    I have had migraine dreams, and always wake up with a migraine. I also have what I call”stress dreams”. Dreams that are so sressful that I wake up with a terrible migraine and my fists clenched. They are always dreams from my past marriage and ordeals with my ex husband and mother in law. Sometimes they are dreams about the problems I had with my then teenage boys. They are always vivid and very real. The pain is excruciating. I can seldom get back to sleep and always have to stagger downstains for the pain meds or an injection for relief.

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