Migraine Triggers: More Sleep Rules, Tips and Tricks (Part 3)

Here is the conclusion to the Sleep Triggers Series

(Read Part 2) The last set of rules and tips were pretty simple and straight forward, even though there are probably some of them that you are not yet utilizing. These are some you might not yet have heard of...

  • Keep the bedroom cool. The body more easily falls to sleep when relaxing is coupled with a lowering of the body temperature. To make this effect even stronger, take a hot shower before bed and multiply the temperature lowering effects. Even those normally cold blooded Migraineurs usually benefit from lowering their body temperature while going to sleep, and sleeping slightly cool.
  • Eat your last meal at least 4 hours before you plan to go to bed. This gives your body plenty of time to empty your stomach before you go to bed. This also helps to eliminate reflux issues as well. Because of the neurologic nature of our disease, Migraineurs often don’t empty their stomachs especially well, so you may find that you need to adjust this time somewhat. Don’t overeat and keep that last meal free from spicy or acidic foods as these too may cause problems with digestion as well as sleep.
  • A light snack may help you fall asleep, but if gastric stasis, GERD or LPR is an issue, this may not always be a good idea. If you choose to snack, try something high in tryptophan and carbs. Tryptophan is found in turkey, warm milk etc. Here is a list of tryptophan concentrations in a huge list of foods. Tryptophan may also be purchased as a supplement. Please be careful of your sources if you choose this route.
  • Avoid drinking excessively 2-4 hrs before bedtime. Keep the acid low (no soda, no acidic juices etc). No caffeine for 6-8 hrs before bedtime. This will help keep stimulant levels low, reflux minimized and bathroom breaks to a minimum during sleep.
  • Don’t smoke before bed. Nicotine is a stimulant and causes multiple symptoms that can keep your body from easily slowing down into sleep mode.
  • No alcohol before bed. While the depressant action of the alcohol content may initially make it easier to fall asleep, your body loses the ability to get the quality of sleep needed for it to act as a Migraine preventive. Alcohol before bed usually results in waking in the early morning hours, and this can act as a trigger for many Migraineurs.
  • Exercise during the day. Beyond tiring your body, exercise acts to balance out your body’s oxygen levels and metabolic processes as well as the neurotransmitters and hormones that are frequently imbalanced in the brains of those who suffer Migraine. Regular exercise is often prescribed by headache specialists, but often rejected by patients who fear it will make their Migraines even worse.

Find these tips and tricks helpful? Have some to add yourself? Great! Let us know here so we can learn too!

I benefitted greatly from changing my habits and the tips and tricks in this series, and I suggest that Migraineurs follow all these strategies religiously for about 3 months to determine if they may help with the frequency and/or intensity of attacks.

I hate to think anyone would make such healthy changes and then want to add the bad habits back into their lives again, but we’re all human, so we’ll try to be realistic here. If you think a particular strategy doesn’t apply to you, then — if you must - slowly add that bad habit back to see if your Migraine pattern changes. Do not ever add back more than one habit at a time, don’t make a sleep change and any other treatment or management change simultaneously, and give yourself a minimum of at least 2 weeks (I suggest a month) before determining if your Migraines have worsened with the addition of the bad habit.

One could go on and on with an enormous list of helpful hints. So, here are a few additional tricks that can be very powerful in the fight for consistent, restorative sleep that keeps our Migraines from being triggered…

  • Consider purchasing a Sunrise Alarm Clock (aka Progression or Natural Light alarm clock) and make your pineal and adrenal glands very happy. There are many types and brands, but these clocks slowly awaken the sleeper with gradually brightening light, just like nature intended. Many are doubled with a clock and radio, some even with aromatherapy. The result of sleeping with one of these is often waking as refreshed as if you had slept late, even if the alarm is set to the early morning hours. This is considered a type of light therapy.
  • For those whose pain keeps them from sleeping well, consider a long acting pain relief medication which will last all night. All pain medicines can cause Medication Overuse Headache (MOH) but some patients must take these drugs for other health conditions. Pain medicine can be compounded at a compounding pharmacy into long lasting patches or even specially formulated long-acting capsules for these patients, keeping them comfortable enough to sleep well throughout the night.
  • Magnesium is the mineral responsible for relaxing muscles in your body. This relaxation works on skeletal muscles as well as the involuntary muscles that line our blood vessels. A large percentage of Migraineurs are deficient in Magnesium and find that daily supplementation of Magnesium (I like Magnesium Citrate powder that dissolves in water) for 3-6 months may help the frequency and/or severity of their attacks. Magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin, and many find relief with a warm Epsom salt (another form of magnesium) bath just before bed. Magnesium taken orally or topically usually relaxes the body and helps to induce sleep.
  • For those going through menopause, some types of cancer therapy or other medicines, or anything that creates night sweats or hot flashes, I highly recommend the Chillow Plus. This soft, non-electric device works like the opposite of a heating pad. There is no cord, and it’s easy enough to grab when needed, or thrown off the bed when you don’t.

Think you might have sleep related triggers? This is a great time to begin a conversation with your doctor about them! It's our responsibility as patients to educate ourselves and mention any concerns we might have to our doctors so they can better help us.

The changes I made to my own sleep habits helped me enormously. They were one of the most important things I did for my Migraines.

Will you make changes now that you know the Migraineur's rules of sleep?

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