We all know the feeling.
You wake at seven o’clock in the morning to the sound of the rain pounding on the window, convinced it’s another rotten weekday, only to remember that it’s Saturday and you can roll back over into another deep, delicious sleep. Personally, I used to indugle in two magical lie – ins twice a week. Those were the days.
That was until I learned, like so many things I enjoyed doing, that it was inherently bad for me. By oversleeping on the weekends, I was actually practicising what is known as poor sleep hygiene which was playing a huge role in triggering my headaches.
Sleep and headaches
For many of us who suffer from headaches, sleep plays a huge role. When a nasty migraine decides to swoop in like a Dementor, most of us will retreat to our beds and try to sleep it off. For others, yawning or feeling strangely sleeply can often be one of the warning signs an attack is about to occur.
I know I’m preaching to the converted when I say that lack of sleep is one of the most common triggers of a headache. But the thing that took me much longer to realise was that oversleeping was just as damaging. I didn’t realise how powerful getting into a good sleep routine could be in controlling the frequency and intensity of my headaches. Quite simply, I found that when I went to bed at roughly the same time every night and got up at the same time every morning, my headaches were much better.
So what’s going on?
The folks at the Migraine Trust have tried to unpack the relationship between sleep and headaches, although it seems the exact root cause is still something of a head scratcher. One leading theory seems to be that the body is trying to protect us. If we build up a sleep deficit or, conversely, sleep too much, the body may trigger a headache or a migraine to balance out our system again:
“One idea might be that a migraine attack may actually represent one of these regulatory mechanisms, albeit an extreme and abnormally over-compensating one. For instance if you are sleep deprived, suffering a migraine may actually force you to keep still and lie down in the dark, in the hope of trying to sleep as a way of ridding yourself of the migraine. Having too much sleep may also have the opposite effect and keep you awake with a migraine on subsequent nights. Both scenarios may be a way of trying to redress both sleep pressure and circadian alignment, and keep the system in equilibrium.”
Gee, thanks headaches. Looking out for us, as per ‘ushe.
So how do we practice good sleep hygiene?
It’s all the things you’ve heard before. But let me remind you….
- Try to go bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning (I know this may be difficult if you have kids, so I emphasise the word try);
- Understand how much sleep ou normally need and stick to it (the recommended amount for adults is usually about 8 hours);
- Avoid screens and bright lights before bedtime, which will allow your brain to wind down and begin to think it is really nightime;
- Avoid caffeine (which is a huge no no anyway for headaches) and alcohol before bed, which affects the overall quality of your sleep;
- Try a relaxing bath or a cup of hot milk (apparently adding a dash of tumeric to it produces melatonin in your body, a sleep inducing hormone – plus it kind of tastes like a chai latte!).
Sleep is a very personal thing, just like headaches.
But I encourage you to try this, as it did give me so much relief and spare time in the mornings which I usually wasted sleeping!
The Headache Helper