Migraines, Stress, Not Sleeping, And Coping During A Pandemic

I’m not sleeping. It’s not really a complex Sherlockian mystery as to why I’m stressed out. A report issued from the National Institutes of Health says that the pandemic “for many people has generated significant stress, anxiety, and worries about health, social isolation, employment, finances as well as the challenge of combining work and family obligations.”1 I recognize some of these worries.

2020 was a tough year

This last year has been tough for a lot of people. When talking with friends, the conversation eventually shifts from the Netflix series Bridgerton to more serious topics. Our worries pour out and we discuss our kids in remote learning, financial concerns, work issues, and all the other things. In our talks, I leave out the part where many nights I lie awake counting the cracks in my ceiling and that my migraine frequency has increased.

Stress, insomnia, and migraine

Stress in and of itself isn’t a trigger for my head pain. But the fallout of stress, like disrupted sleep, will absolutely trigger one. My best line of defense is being faithful to my sleep schedule — which just hasn’t been happening. According to research by UC Davis, insomnia during the time of COVID is “very real and very widespread.”2

There are many reasons a person can have trouble sleeping or experience insomnia. Mine are directly related to the stressors I’ve been carrying around and some recent sorrow. My worried brain wakes me up and replays unsolvable problems looking desperately for a solution. Add to my list of worries that my grandmother passed away at the beginning of this year and the sadness of losing her and all that means continues to play out in my mind. I’m not sleeping, and I’m having many migraines.

How I'm trying to de-stress

Like my son used to giggle and watch the water go down the drain after his bath, I need to try and pull the plug on my worries. I want to watch them slide down that drain so I can sleep and stop my migraines from increasing. While there are many ways to go about de-stressing and setting the stage for a good nights sleep, here are a few of the methods I’m using that help:

  • Light exercise during the day: For me, a heavy workout will trigger a migraine but light yoga or a walk—this my body can handle. YouTube is great for finding an appropriate yoga class level at home and studies show regular exercise helps most people to sleep better.
  • Talking to friends: Talking to a trusted friend helps me relieve stress. I’m able to let go of big feelings and my friends can offer comfort or a solution.
  • A healthy snack: When I need a little extra sleepy-time booster, a snack like a handful of almonds and a tiny glass of warm milk does the trick.

Hopefully, these and other approaches will get me back onboard my Sleepy Train and return me to my regularly scheduled migraine program. If not, I may have to invest in some very real sheep to count.

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