Coping, Treatment

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.

7 thoughts on “Sleep Medicine”

  1. i have also notice that same thing that if i get a headache if its a minor pain i take a nap and wake up with no headache. one big thing that i have notice is what Ginger said if i lets say i decide to take a shower with warm water mean while im in the shower the pain go away but raturns as soon as i get out. Ive tried lots of things when my headache is to its max its also follwed by dizzyness,can’t stand the noise and light and with vomit but that only gets like that when i try to ignore the headache so when i get a headache a minor headache i nap it cause if i dont it get worse and if i try napping it after it gets worse it doesnt help me and in that point the thing that starts to calm my pain is after i vomit.

  2. I was in a terrible car accident on June 25, 2007 and take several anti-epileptic medications and also find myself needing to sleep off a bad migraine. Mostly I will think it has been a few moments, when in fact a few hours have passed. However, lately I am finding it hard to wake and the migraines are not getting better with sleep. The only relief is the sleep. I cannot sleep all the time, I must work like everyone else, this has been such a major life change. I am having real troubles learning to adapt. The depression has taken me to a place that could be triggering my problems waking up and fear perhaps one day I will not be able to wake up. Anyone else gone through this with advice to share. My children and family would like the me back, and I would like me back.

  3. I have Transformed Migraine and Basilar Migraine which limits my medication options. I do find that I do get hit by bouts of extreme fatigue, sleep for however long the attack last, and then function better until the next attack. My problem is I can have several attacks per day despite being on anti-epilepsy drug.

    Wow, that’s really tough. I’m sorry you’re suffering so much.

    How long have you been on the anti-epilectic? It can take a while for them to kick in.

    Take care of yourself.


  4. It’s good to know that you guys benefit from naps too. Especially because I know that you aren’t all migraneurs (Terri has tension-type headaches), so maybe it’s a more universal “treatment.”


  5. yes, i’ve found the same thing. i often awaken with a bad headache. if it isn’t a work day, i go back to sleep and wake up 2-3h later without a headache. my headache seems to depend on where i wake up in my sleep cycle. i often wake from dreams with a bad h/a. sleep seems to be THE key to headaches for me. finding the balance, staying asleep, getting into a pattern, all helps enormously. but definitely the “taking a nap” or going back to sleep in my case really always helps!

  6. I’ve often found that if I had a really bad headache, and took something, and tried to just keep functioning, the medication didn’t seem to take hold. But if I took a nap (I think of it as shutting down the system and rebooting) very often the headache will back off. And usually it’s not a long nap — it’s like I drift off to sleep and when I’m fully asleep I start drifting back to wakefulness (like rebooting).

    The other weird thing I notice when I have a bad headache is that eating anything makes it back off — but only while I’m eating. It’s like my body is saying, “Hmm, maybe this will make us feel better. Let’s give it a chance.” But usually as soon as I finish swallowing, the headache pounds it’s way back to the forefront. I mentioned this to one other person who had experienced something similar. Unfortunately it’s not really a treatment since one can’t (or shouldn’t) eat for hours on end.

  7. If I DON’T have a headache and sleep a lot it may give me a headache. If I DO have a headache and sleep a lot it helps get rid of the headache.

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