Are Sleep Issues and Migraines Genetic?
Ptácek’s team found that the affected family members had a gene mutation, specifically in an enzyme called casein kinase. The enzyme is a key factor in regulating normal sleep-wake cycles, of many species, from mice to humans.
In a subsequent study done by Ptácek, this enzyme was looked at in relationship to migraines.
First the study looked at the enzyme in the original 14 family members of the first study, and of those members, five suffered with migraine with aura. The scientists then sequenced the mutation in blood samples from 70 additional families that also were diagnosed with this rare sleep disorder. Similar numbers were discovered.
What Does It All Mean?
Though I don’t have a rare sleep disorder, I do have periods of time where my internal clock goes haywire. I have periods of insomnia; I have nights where I wake every 45 minutes, never entering into a deep restful sleep.
I feel the affects the next day in my clarity of thought and even my muscles and joints. I have also noticed that within 24 hours, I feel a migraine coming on. Coincidence? I have to wonder.
Migraine and Sleep Habits
The UNC researchers conducted a follow-up study to see if making changes in sleep patterns could have an effect on migraine frequency and intensity.
The study focused on 43 women with chronic migraine, splitting them up into two groups. The first group received formal instructions on how to improve their sleep habits and the other group received placebo instructions that would not really help sleep.
All the women kept a diary of their headaches, and six weeks later the study found that those in the group who changed their sleep behavior for real improvement saw a significantly smaller headache frequency and intensity. In contrast, nobody in the placebo group had such a dramatic change.
Here is a look at those formal sleep instructions given to the patients to improve their sleep quality:
- Schedule consistent bedtime that allows eight hours of sleep in bed.
- Do not watch TV, read, or listen to music in bed — it can create a conditioned response in your body that bed is for a lot more than sleep.
- Relax before bed — creating a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as a warm bath, reading, soft music, yoga, or prayer can all be helpful techniques.
- Move your last meal to at least four hours before bedtime, and limit fluids within two hours of bedtime.
- Avoid napping, but if you can’t limit it to no more than 30 minutes before 3 p.m., unless you are very sick or suffering a horrible migraine.
Also, try and to make your bedroom more conducive to sleep. Keep you door closed and block out noise by running a fan or playing a white noise app (you can download them onto your phone or device for free). Make certain the temperature of the room is comfortable for sleep, and try and keep the bedroom as dark as possible.
Other tips include:
- Exercise at least 30 minute daily and stay active, but keep it five to six hours before bedtime.
- Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol.
- If you suffer from other conditions that cause chronic pain, it is important to adequately treat that pain so it’s not keeping you up at night.
I have started to pay closer attention to my sleep habits and I have seen an improvement in the frequency of my headaches, though not the intensity when I still get them. I think it takes a combinations of factors to trigger severe migraines, but that many sufferers could at least benefit to some degree from improving their sleep habits.