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!