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Sleep Medicine

When I have a bad headache coming on, sleeping for an hour or two is usually the best abortive I’ve ever tried. I’ve noticed this pattern over the last nine months. My headaches worsen in the afternoon, usually between 1 and 5 p.m. If I let myself nap and wake up on my own, I almost always have less of a headache than I fell asleep with.

I think of it as my version of sleep medicine. The key is letting myself nap, but only when I need to. Bad headaches for me are always accompanied by extreme sleepiness. In the past, I’ve made myself push through. Part of this is because I didn’t want to waste time sleeping, but mostly I didn’t want to mess up my sleep cycle.

Changes in sleep — too much, too little or at the wrong times — trigger headaches for a lot of people, so going to be and waking up at the same times each day can help tame them. I’ve found that, if my naps are dictated by pain and the associated sleepiness, my nighttime sleep patterns don’t change. If it’s just a lazy day and I feel OK, I will get a headache if my nap is longer than half an hour.

I’ve put my medicine to the test each of the last three days. It helped every time and twice the change was dramatic. Saturday I napped while Hart picked his sister and her husband up at the airport. I was hoping to at least be able to sit around the house and chat with them. Instead, we went out to dinner and got cupcakes and I was still able to hang out when we got home.

In the wee hours of Monday morning, I awoke with a migraine. I slept until 10 a.m. and was then able to play tour guide for most of the day. At about 5 p.m. I crashed with a headache. At 7:30 we went out to dinner and for after-dinner doughnuts. I was chipper and felt good — and stayed that way until I went to bed at my usual time.

I’m thrilled that this helps me, but also think it’s kind of strange. I’ve never heard anyone else report a similar effect. Have you? Is there some other unusual “treatment” that works for you? For example, Peter wrote in a comment that chewing gum reduces his pain.

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