Literally….approximately 12% of Americans suffers from migraines, and about 20-40% experience insomnia. Recently, a connection between headaches and sleep has been revealed, making yet another reason, (besides brain health, memory, longevity) to get some shut-eye.
An article from webmd reported the following:
“American Headache Society (AHS) President David Dodick, MD, says sleep disruption is one of the most important migraine triggers, yet very little is known about the molecular pathways that link sleep to headache pain. Dodick is a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.”
The article was prompted by a research study which compared rats that were deprived of deep sleep to those who slept their regular hours. The drowsy rats were found to excrete a larger amount of proteins which excite the nervous system, regulate facial nerves (proteins p38 and PKA), and cause chronic pain (P2X3 protein). They also excreted lower levels of calming proteins.
What does this translate to? We know that with lack of sleep, stress on the body increases. This causes an elevation in stress hormones which leads to a chronic low grade state of arousal. The end result= inflammation. In fact, this was connection was revealed in a 2006 article from the Archives of Internal Medicine:
“Interventions that target sleep might constitute new strategies to constrain inflammation with effects on inflammatory disease risk.”
Here are my thoughts: Increased stress hormones increase blood sugar, insulin and cortisol. This creates an imbalance in hormonal pathways, neurotransmitters (making you more anxious, creating a viscous cycle), and increasing the nervous system’s response to pain (as the body is more agitated). In fact, one study even related imbalances in hormones, insomnia, and migraines to low dopamine, a precursor to those catecholamines that are being pumped out too quickly with stress.
Furthermore, lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain by suppressing appetite control through it’s affect on leptin and ghrelin.
All these factors add up to one inflamed, tired, sugar-craving, hormonal mess.
Ok, so enough with the scary thoughts that will increase anxiety and feed into the viscous cycle of not being able to sleep because you are worried about not sleeping. (Any clock watchers in the audience). What to do? I’ve included a link below in the references for sleep hygiene. Start with the basics first.
To help with the effects of lack of sleep for my clients (and myself), I use a combination of calming, hormonal, and inflammation modulating herbals, neurotransmitters, nutrients, and lifestyle modifications. The combination is usually a winner; however, one of the major factors in most people lives is this- they have to change the behavior that created the problem to begin with or they will never get lasting relief.
In other words, take the hint from the black screen-water incident that recently left my home computer to rest in peace, stop with the emails, wash down your minerals with some essential oils of lemon or orange, grab a book and your chamomile tea, then breathe in a sigh of relief as you let the worries of the day release and you snuggle in to your calming music.
Webmd. Lack of Sleep Triggers ‘Migraine’ Proteins. June 24, 2010. ()
Webmd. 10 Tips to Beat Insomnia
Sleep. Deprivation and Activation of Morning Levels of Cellular and Genomic Markers of Inflammation [abstract] Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1756-1762.
Hypothalamic involvement in chronic migraine. [abstract] J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2001;71:747-751 doi:10.1136/jnnp.71.6.747