Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer


Living with Migraine

Laying down with a Migraine

  • By Cedar FireFly

    I always hear advice that you should lay down in a dark and quiet room when you have a migraine. The dark and quiet are good but not the part about laying down. Every time I lay down when I have a migraine it gets 10xs worse. The pounding grows to unbearable to keep laying down. and as soon I sit up the intensity of my migraine lowers. So I want to know if anyone else has this problem?

  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi Kaosazure,

    Thanks for your question, let’s see what I can do to help!

    Is this a new symptom and may I ask if you’ve mentioned this to the doctor? If not, I would encourage you to do so because it’s important to discuss changes in our migraine symptoms and/or patterns with our doctor. This way he can rule out anything more serious.

    hen head pain is worse when lying down, it may possibly be related to cerebrospinal fluid. I have something called idiopathic intracranial hypertension, IIH which was formerly called pseudotumor cerebri and when my cerebrospinal fluid is high, my head pounds more when I am lying down. Let me share this information with you on this condition so you can share it with your doctor if you wish;

    Does that help?


  • By Giggles

    I have this problems as well. Sometimes I’ll have a mild headache that turns into a migraine as soon as I lay down to go to sleep. I’ve done some research and this is not uncommon, although my neuro has no answer as to why this happens. I usually try to use 3-4 pillows to elevate my head.

  • By TheKimberly75

    I have spent so many nights (mornings and afternoons!) propped up on pillows that I couldn’t possibly count! As soon as I lie down with a migraine the pain goes through the roof. Heaven forbid I need to have an MRI with a migraine! The only answer I’ve ever received is the fluid in my head must be greater when I lie down but nothing about doing anything about it! Now I’ll have to check into it further with my neurologist and see what he has to say.

    • By jns192 Moderator

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
      My migraine attacks also worsen when I lay down and especially when I close my eyes!
      No one really understands this- my family always tells me to “take a nap” when I get a migraine but honestly that is the last thing I ever want to do.
      As you said, being propped up on pillows is much better for me.
      Also, sometimes instead of complete darkness I like a dim, non direct light and try to do something like color that distracts me.

      Jillian ( Team)

  • By Madison10

    Mine is definitely worse when lying down. I’ve resorted to sleep sitting up, completely up. Leaning back, to the side, etc. makes it much worse. Sometimes I even need to stand to relieve the pressure, so I stand and rock back and forth while squinting at the T.V. (to keep me awake).

    Once I’ve done this for a few hours, some of the pressure subsides just enough so I can sit down to sleep.

    And thank you to all for sharing your stories on this. Although I’m sorry you too have this symptom, I’m grateful I’m not alone in what can seem like a bizarre side effect to non migraineurs.

  • By Bama

    I’m so glad I came across this while googling the reason my migraine is so much worse when laying down. I can’t count the times I’ve had to sleep sitting up. Even though y’all don’t have a reason/help for this, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in this. Truly miserable. BTW, I also do better in (just) dim light with something mundane to do & I need the temperature very cool. I cover up, but as long as my head is cold it helps.

  • By NormaC

    I came across this googling symptoms for recent changes, but this has been an issue for me for my entire life. Lying down will make things much worse.

    One thing that I wondered about when reading this though: Many of you talk about piling up pillows.

    For me, that helps for about 30 seconds, then it makes it worse.

    Propping my head up on even one standard pillow even when I’m fine is a way to guarantee a migraine for me, complete with visual scotoma.

    I’ve had to actually take stuffing out of my pillows in order to not wake up ill, and f I already have a migraine, at times all I can use is a blanket or towel folded to about a 2 inch thickness.

    At first the lack of support makes it feel like it’s going to be worse, but I’ve found for myself it’s the only way lying down is bearable with a migraine.

    I did have a concussion on the back of the head/neck when I was 12, and that’s about where my migraines radiate outward from, so I’m sure that there are complications with muscles, tension, and perhaps even neurologically back there. Unfortunately I’m a 99 percenter rather than one of the 1% who actually can go doctor shopping and get medical testing easily, so as with everyone else I know, insurance wouldn’t cover an MRI unless it was clear I was dying, so there’s no real way to properly investigate (past x-rays years ago showed nothing).

  • By Beardo007

    I have this issue as well. It is relatively new to me. I’ve never heard of IIH but now it’s something to consider. I’ve been suffering with migraines for about twenty of my thirty years. Doctors have tried all kinds of medications for them to no avail. I usually ride them out.

    IiH is a diagnosis I just heard of 30 minutes prior to this post and the reply from Nancy Harris Bonk. It made me create my account. I’ve seemed to have found the best place to turn for advice. Thank you for the subject thread.

  • By GardensatNight

    “Positional headache” is definitely a symptom to watch out for because it can indicate a CSF pressure problem. Nancy talked about hers being too high… a symptom of this would be if your headache gets worse when you’re completely flat. Mine is too low… for me, my headaches go away or drastically improve when I lay flat.

    No one ever told me to check for this, so for years I was just suffering before any doctor thought to do a lumbar puncture. It’s definitely helped me to change my positioning and have the CSF issue not exacerbate the migraine issue as much.

  • By JoyfulEm

    The past few years I have been using a wedge pillow. It has a slight incline, firm support. It’s been wonderful during a migraine or pre-migraine.

  • By mflowers

    After suffering for so many years trying to get comfortable with pillows, we finally purchased an adjustable bed. It has been wonderful to be able to raise the head as high as I need it to be during migraines. The bed has paid for itself in relief and comfort!

  • By Deby

    Hi, I am new to this forum and so glad to talk to others with migraines. I have the same problem when lying down, but I get up and I rest in a recliner with pillows. It does help a lot. I have Chiari Malformation and migraines sometimes for 5 days in a row. Does anyone else have Chiari? I can’t find a Dr willing to do decompression surgery, and would like to find some tips on how to cope with the pain and almost daily migraines

  • By nilakship

    Old thread but thought I can add to the discussion. I have a similar issue too, but if I were to get rest and lie down before the onset the Migraine might not be that strong. After suffering fro 22 years I know that the source of my migraines is my neck/spine. Once the migraine has set in if I lie down the muscles at the base of my skull and side of m neck spasm (since they have been tied in knots to begin with) and that causes the unbearable spike in pain. into the head and the face both.
    Neck stretches and strengthening exercises are the answer. Knowing other triggers and getting rest before the situation gets worse is the other leg of it.
    Thought I had share my experience and leanings that apply specifically in my case.

    • By iritf

      Hi all,
      I know this discussion is old but I too suffer from similar symptoms…
      Did anyone here check afterwards if they had IIH and got treatment for it? I’ve been suffering like hell!

      Please share

    • By penrichardson

      I have been to countless specialists over the last 30+ years, and have been given a variety of causes for my headaches, of which none were correct. I feel like your headaches are similar to mine. I have recently went to a migraine specialist who is saying I have cervagenical migraines. She sent me to physical therapy. Allthough I don’t feel as if I am better (after 8 weeks of PT & dry needling), I know two things are true. 1) When I lay down (for a length of time such as overnight when sleeping),I am almost bound to get a migraine. I know it is a migraine, because triptans will rid me of it. 2) When at PT with a migraine one day, the PT found a knot (I have many) in the muscle on my shoulder, pressed really hard for 3 minutes (trigger point therapy maybe this is called), and my migraine completely went away. I normally don’t get these headaches during the day, but am doomed at night to get the migraines and awaken with them. Your problem seems similar. Have you found out anything to prevent these from happening?

  • By Imcece

    Hello my name’s chelsie, I’m 22 years old.. I couldn’t help but comment on this post because I am having similar issues at the moment.. I woke up today with a unbearable migraine like when I say unbearable I mean it.. I was unable to lay down and close my eyes without it getting worse I wasn’t able to sit without it getting worse I tried drinking pop I tried showering with hot water I tried eating I tried a heating pad and I tried using a cold compress none of it seemed to work.. I got up and went outside csuse ya know I live in ohio here so its chilly.. I went outside and walked around and just kept walking around came back in used a pillow and a blanket laid it under my head and haven’t closed my eyes it feels better at the moment but it’ll get worse.. I have had these migraine problems for years

    • By Vvgaby

      Hey there I just came across this website because I have had a headache all day today. For back story I have scoliosis and my neck is also straight. Meaning my neck isn’t curving the way it should so my head is rested weirdly on my neck I don’t actually experience neck pain as much. I also don’t take pain killers as those make me feel more sick, I only will take children liquid Tylenol if desperate.
      So as far as headaches /migraines I was getting them a Lot last year like there was a period where my headaches lasted for a week. And I woke up with a blazing migraine one night which was super scary.
      Anyway as mentioned above since I don’t take pain killer unless I need it, I try out a lot of home remedies.
      I know this forum is about migraines so maybe this won’t help but I always always take a paper towel/ or napkin fold it up and dab some lavender oil on top. I sniff that for about 15 minutes or as long as I can handle the smell. It always helps take away the pain. I swear by this. If it doesn’t work I also pray always. Thirdly taking a hot shower, sitting behind a fire place or using some heating pad along your neck or head and massaging the head helps. Pressure points to relieve headaches are the web part between your index finger and thumb if you hold that with your other fingers that should help. Also on your face if you just press between the top part of your nose I heard that helps. I also massage the hell out of my head especially using my fingers to rub. This will relax you. Be in a quiet dark room. Also bananas, carrots, almonds, and brocilli are foods known to help relieve or reduce pain. Don’t ask me how but I always eat brocilli if I’m having pain. If I don’t have brocilli I will eat almonds or bananas. Oatmeal is also a good fiber food to help you feel full if you put some bananas and almonds that will help

      Okay back to my story
      So I slept without my pillow last night because I couldn’t get comfortable mostly because I was sleeping with my sister in her bed and I’m used to sleeping alone in my bed. I didn’t think it would matter that I didn’t have a pillow and slept flat even tho I literally am a stickler for having my pillows with me wherever I go. So I woke up with pain in the back of my head i was worried about it cuz I never ever have headaches anymore mostly because I go to see my acupuncturist and that helps me. So go see an acupuncturist I swear! Anyway I had a headache in the back of my head so I went to grab my usual drink hot cocoa and that didn’t help so I went home and just chilled and slept. I woke up and it felt like it was gone. Then I went to my acupuncture today lol and I laid down in bed again and didn’t feel anything once I got up and was driving I did feel the headache again I wasn’t planning to stay over again at my sisters but I did. And then my headache got worse so I sat in bed and Leaned against pillows and tried to round my head becuase my neck isn’t straight. Well that made it worse. After drinking a bunch of water and sitting by the fire smelling lavender oil on a napkin I felt the pain die down and it wasn’t that unbearable anyway. So then I decided to try to lay down on my pillow and thought it would help everything well I was in the middle of texting my friend and I got a migraine. After not having migraines for a few months I just ended up crying and feeling shaky , heart beating fast, and wishing the pain was gone. I also didn’t have my go to children Tylenol with me . I was tempted to take an adult pain killer pill but didnt. Instead I went back to the fire and sniffed lavender and ate an orange and prayed. Luckily and amazingly the pain is gone! I am still sore when I walk or move but not feeling at all pain. I am trying to decide if I will sleep tonight or just sit up all night. I’m scared to lay down cuz I don’t wanna have a migraine again. It’s the worst. Anyway if anyone else is having these issues I would definitely recommend again acupuncture, massage, heat, sniff lavender oil do not apply oils to skin unless you properly dilute the oil, and I also suggest to pray. As far as posture goes I would try doing a round foam neck roller thing and just lay on it everyday for a few minutes it will help curve the neck which in part will help your head tensions. As far a spine go to a chiropractor and get some info. I started with a shoe heel to help balance my legs and hips. Be consistent with that. Anyway I hope I helped someone out there. Again not sure if I will sleep tonight or not.