Sleep Deprivation And Migraines

Anyone who’s ever had a migraine will know that they’re much more than just a headache. They’ll also know they’re complicated conditions that we don’t fully understand, and with often limited treatment options. A new study may have taken us one step closer to comprehending some of the underlying mechanisms, and with it open new avenues for potential therapies (

Migraines are often thought of as headache disorders, as these tend to be the most prominent feature, but they’re actually a broad spectrum of different symptoms. There’s a lot of variation between different people, but common characteristics include sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. They can cause mood changes, cognitive issues, or leave you at a higher risk of developing other psychiatric disorders. Many people experience “auras” in the lead-up to a full migraine.

Millions of people suffer from migraines every year. You’re more likely to develop migraines if you’re female and if there’s a family history, but anyone can get them. A large portion of management is trying to avoid potential triggers. Painkillers can be used in the initial stages of a mild or moderate migraine but should not be used over an extended period of time because they can make things worse. Other medications can reduce nausea.

We think migraines are influenced by genetics and environment, but we don’t know exactly how they fit together or whether there’s a specific underlying cause. Researchers at the University of Arizona wanted to explore a potential connection between migraines and sleep deprivation. They used the most advanced neuroimaging techniques to do it.

They used the imaging to examine the brain before and after it had been deprived of sleep. What they found was that the disruption to the brain’s natural sleep-wake cycle might trigger migraines, in addition to making symptoms worse. They also found that sleep deprivation interfered with how the brain responded to sensory inputs, particularly pain. Basically, pain became more acute and the brain struggled to regulate it. On top of that, there was an inflammatory response to the sleep deprivation that may also have been an aggravating factor for migraines.

This suggests that techniques and therapies to improve sleep quality may also help with migraine management. It also opens up new avenues of research into the inflammatory response and potential ways to treat it.

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