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Migraine Triggers: Sleep Rules & Tips (Part 2)

Sleep related issues are one of the most frequently found triggers in Migraineurs — especially chronic Migraineurs. Unfortunately a Migraine triggered by a sleep problem may beget further sleep problems that work to trigger another Migraine. (See Part 1)

This is one snowball on a hill you want to be sure to stay away from!

One of the most important things we can do to eliminate sleep related triggers is to maximize our good sleep strategies. This may seem elementary, but I assure you that it is not for nearly every Migraineur I’ve met. Yes there are helpful tips to help us with this, and there are even a few tricks I’d love to share with you…

Tips and tricks to kick those sleep triggers to the curb

Did you know there are a set of sleep hygiene rules we should follow? Here are a few along with some tips and tricks to help make them easier to follow:

  • Keep a regular bedtime schedule. This means set a regular bedtime and stick with it – – every night. To keep Migraines to a minimum, find a relaxing routine and don’t stray from it. Yes, you can go out with friends tomorrow night, but be prepared in case your actions trigger another Migraine attack. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to accept the consequences if this triggers a Migraine?” Try to avoid after dinner dozing, as this can be a trigger all by itself.
  • A healthy bedtime routine means turning off the television. The content and noise stimulates the brain, but the light itself plays tricks on pineal gland of the brain which controls our circadian rhythm. The influence of light on our physical bodies is very strong. In the winter, we use light to trick the pineal gland in the brains of animals so we can induce springtime activities such as early shedding of their winter coat, and breeding. Although people do not shed their coat nor breed seasonally, the effect of changes in the human brain is very similar. This can result in reduced levels of the important hormone Melatonin that assists our bodies in restful sleep. Melatonin levels decrease as we age, and sometimes adding this hormone in pill form can help some Migraineurs regain a healthy sleep pattern. Beware, Melatonin supplementation is not enough to ignore the television rule… it is only a help. It is interesting to note that blue light was found to be particularly stimulating to the brain and one of the worst colors to be exposed to if you’re trying to calm the brain into sleep mode.
  • Cover up all light sources. Digital clocks, nightlights, computer lights all wreak havoc with the pineal gland and our circadian rhythm. Turn clocks to the wall, cover computer lights with black electrical tape or specially made light buffering stickers, and turn off the nightlights. Cover windows with light blocking drapes or liners available at most department stores.
  • Set a regular wake-up time and stick with it every morning — even weekends. Be smart about napping. Not only can a nap itself act as a trigger, but it can cause insomnia — yet another sleep trigger for many Migraineurs. Nap only when necessary, and try to make those naps count.
  • Don’t set the snooze button. This usually results in the sleeper actually getting less sleep rather than more. Snoozers set their alarms earlier, hit the button, then never go back into restful sleep. Non-snoozers wake with their alarm and spend that last 15 minutes in restorative sleep the snoozer has lost out on.
  • The bed is for bedtime. This means sleep and sex. Just as Pavlov’s dogs learned to associate being fed with the ringing of a bell (they began to salivate at the sound, even when there was no food present) your body will begin to unconsciously associate the act of going to bed with physical changes needed to fall asleep. After a period of time, your body makes these adjustments more easily and sleep comes easier and faster at bedtime and is more restful.

Next: The conclusion you don’t want to miss!

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


  • MargaretReiter
    4 years ago

    I agree that sleep is very important and helps keep us from having a migraine attack. I would like to ask a question about pillows. What kind of pillow is anyone buying these days? Every pillow I look at seems to not have any support but rather goes right down to the bed. I do prefer the contour pillows. I am asking because a pillow helps not wake with pain in the neck.
    Thank you,

  • afinkel
    6 years ago

    Hi Ellen,
    Great article!
    Take care,

  • Nina Rose
    7 years ago

    you said that blue lights are bad for us to get sleep but I wear blue tinted glasses all day for my light sensitivity! could I preventing myself from getting proper sleep by wearing this colour tint all day??

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    Nina Rose – Isn’t it funny how we are all so different?! Although it may be possible that your blue tint may theoretically cause more brain activity, there is no guarantee it is causing problematic sleep. Have you tried a different tint to see if it might be equally effective light protection, but might help your sleep issues?

  • Elizabeth Washam Reitzel
    8 years ago

    I’ve come to the point where I can’t sleep without the tv…i need some noise, and if I listen to the radio, I start concentrating on the words to songs and that keeps me from sleeping…any suggestions?

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    6 years ago

    Sherry, do you have any recommendations for a white noise machine? Many of us with allodynia can’t handle the feeling of air moving over our bodies, so a fan really isn’t practical, but I’ve often wondered if a white noise machine might be something to try.


  • Chip&Dale
    6 years ago

    Try a fan or white noise machine. I personally cannot sleep with out some sort of sound so a fan is my best friend

  • Heather R
    8 years ago

    Can too much sleep really be the cause of some of my Migraines? I sleep better then I have in years thanks to my CPAP but it takes forever to fall asleep even with the help of melatonin. I almost always take naps during the day. Most of the time I end up falling asleep even when I try and stay awake. I usually sleep anywhere between 8-11 hours and like I said even if I’m not that tired I fall asleep during the day. I plan on bringing this up with my doctor so thank you for making me think about it.

  • Kimberly M. White
    8 years ago

    I have a really fantastic neurologist who has worked diligently with me to identify migraine triggers, one of which was sleep apnea. I used to wake up with horrific migraines, but with the use of a CPAP machine, Topamax, and Imitrex injections, I am able to keep functioning.

  • Ruth Ann Price Norman
    8 years ago

    It is a great pleasure to read that you’re doing so much better.

  • Susan Cleveland
    8 years ago

    I told my employer about the importance of a regular sleep pattern and my need for a regular schedule, so he cut my days. He told me that if I wanted my 40 hours back, I just needed to be more flexible. I work early morning shifts and closing shifts both every week. So, alas, a regular sleep pattern is not a luxury I can afford, literally. Napping is the only thing I can do to alleviate my fatigue, but then I don’t sleep well that night. And yes, lights are a big nuisance. My husband laughs at the extremes I take to get rid of lights at night.

  • Susan Cleveland
    8 years ago

    that’s what I thought. Thanks, Teri.

  • Teri Robert
    8 years ago

    Your employer may have just violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, Susan. You might want to run this past a lawyer.

  • Joy Perez
    8 years ago

    Insomnia and migraines are a vicious cycle. Not enough rest can trigger migraines and a migraine can make it difficult to sleep. 🙁

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    Yes Joy, you are so very right! Getting off that train is a very difficult thing to do too… it often takes many months to be successful. That said, it is vitally important for us as Migraineurs to maximize our sleep to the best of our abilities 🙂

  • Vicky Bonneville
    8 years ago

    Now they tell me.. 🙁

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    It is never too late to implement these tips and tricks to help your Migraines. It takes time, so be patient with yourself, but this is something that’s not drug related we can do to help ourselves – WE have the power!

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