The Intertwined Struggle: The Migraine and Insomnia Relationship

It is the middle of the night, and I am wide awake. At this point, I have given up on falling back asleep at this moment. I left my bed and curled up in my recliner with the dogs and my relentless migraine. I cannot help sighing with frustration and exhaustion.

How are migraine and insomnia connected?

Migraine and insomnia are two debilitating conditions. Unfortunately, there can be an interplay between migraine and insomnia, with each condition exacerbating the other in a vicious cycle.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, “People living with migraine are between 2 and 8 times more likely to experience sleep disorders.” These conditions have both a physical toll and an emotional toll on the person living with them. Despite this, there are some tips for trying to break the cycle between the two conditions.1

How do they physically impact me?

The physical toll of migraines includes extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. There can also be a sensitivity to elements such as lights, smells, and sounds. On the other hand, the physical tolls of insomnia include persistent fatigue, drowsiness, and decreased energy levels. Additionally, the immune system can be damaged by both short- or long-term sleep deprivation, causing easy illness.2

The combination of migraine and insomnia has created many issues for me over time. The symptoms of a migraine can make it impossible to sleep. Unfortunately, a lack of quality sleep can further aggravate a migraine. It becomes difficult to tell if the migraine is causing the insomnia or if it is the other way around! There have been many times when I landed in the middle of this cycle.

What has been the emotional toll?

The emotional toll of living with these conditions is just as extensive as the physical toll. Living with migraine can easily cause feelings such as hopelessness and anxiety due to the unpredictability of the attacks. The stress of wondering when the next migraine will occur can easily cause the symptoms to worsen. Additional migraine-related emotions can include guilt, isolation, and even depression.1

On the other hand, living with insomnia can cause issues such as irritability, frustration, and hopelessness. Some of these symptoms overlap with the emotional toll of living with migraine. When insomnia is persistent over some time, a person can be faced with memory and cognitive function impairment.1

These issues can easily lead a person to develop depression. I am faced with my own additional diagnosis of major depressive disorder. While it may not be solely related to living with migraine and insomnia, my depression is greatly impacted by these conditions.1

What has helped me break the cycle?

While I have yet to find a guaranteed solution for breaking the cycle between migraine and insomnia, some tips can help with the situation. One of the most important tips is to maintain a constant sleep routine. While this may seem easy, it involved going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even on the weekends)! It is also best to avoid naps.

Another suggestion that I use every night is to keep your room dark and cool. I use things such as blackout curtains, no electronic lights, and maintain a bedtime temperature of 68 degrees, plus a fan.

While I know it is supposed to be best to avoid electronics before bed, I use blue-light-blocking glasses to help achieve the same outcome without avoiding electronics completely. I wear these blue-light-blocking glasses anytime I am doing something with electronics. This ranges from my laptop to my phone to watching the television.

How do you manage?

Living with one of these conditions is difficult, but living with both conditions is a major undertaking. The physical and emotional toll of navigating both conditions simultaneously cannot be overstated. Those of us living with these conditions should come together to offer one another advice on how to manage living with the conditions.

Do you live with migraine and insomnia? If so, how do you mitigate the issues associated with both of these conditions?

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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.

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