Middle of the Night Migraine Attacks
Last updated: September 2023
Here's a really frustrating fact: The most common time for me to get a migraine is in the middle of the night.
Waking up to migraine
Let me paint you a picture.
I use sleeping aids to sleep
I struggle with insomnia and anxiety and several other things, so I currently take medication to help me sleep. It prevents me from laying in bed for hours upon hours staring at the ceiling, letting my mind run free while my eyes stay awake and wait.
I wake up to head pain
Once I drift off to sleep, at some point during the night, I wake up to use the restroom. As I walk from my bedroom to the bathroom, I notice that my head is, in fact, throbbing. Without turning on the lights, I use the restroom, wash my hands, and promptly find my way to my medicine cabinet. I take my migraine medication and Zofran for nausea, put my Nerivio device on my arm and go down the stairs to the kitchen, where I take my headache hat out of the freezer. I climb the stairs back to my bedroom, grab my weighted eye mask, and crawl back into bed.
I struggle to fall back to sleep
I then spend an undetermined amount of time - usually somewhere between 10-60 minutes, trying to fall back asleep while trying somewhat unsuccessfully to ignore the pain pulsating in my head and the feelings of vomit rising in my throat.
There's no warning
One of the bigger challenges for me is that oftentimes there's no difference in what I've done or how I feel when I go to bed on nights that I wake up with migraine versus those that I do not. What makes this so frustrating is that there's seemingly no way to prevent said migraine from occurring. I've tried, in general, to adopt the same "sleep hygiene" habits on a nightly basis. Those habits include at what time I limit caffeine, not drinking alcohol, having water before bed, etc., in the hopes that any of those variables might be impacting the bad nights that end up in head-splitting migraines, but I've noticed no difference.
Simply put, some nights I wake up with a migraine, and other nights I don't.
It feels similar to morning attacks
While the beginning of these migraines may unfairly sneak up on me while I'm asleep, their course of action feels very similar to a migraine that may strike in the morning or during daytime hours. With the right abortive medication at the right dose taken as soon as possible, I'm usually able to wake up in the morning feeling at least some migraine relief. In truth, on the days when there isn't enough relief, work is called off, and I'm left to toss and turn in bed in the dark and in the silence.
The attack isn't over by daylight
I wish I could say that all middle-of-the-night migraines are rectified by the time the sun rises in the morning, but that would simply go against the nature of migraine in general. I've really never met one that lasted less than a few hours at minimum and a few weeks at maximum.
Have you experienced a middle-of-the-night migraine? Do you prepare for it or treat it differently from migraines during daytime hours? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.
Are you managing insomnia in addition to migraine? Check out our sister community, Insomnia.Sleep-Disorders.net.
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?