There’s no doubt we all feel better when we’ve had a good night’s sleep. In fact, new evidence is emerging that supports a connection between a lack of sleep and headaches.
Though we can’t yet say definitively that a lack of sleep causes headaches, sleep is an important factor. Read on to learn about how to improve sleep with the right mattress, pillow, and sleep habits, and discover how great sleep alleviates headaches and migraines.
Can you get headaches from a lack of sleep? Maybe … experts have linked two types of headaches to sleep: migraines and tension headaches.
Migraines are recurrent, painful headaches. They typically manifest as moderate to severe pain on one side of the head. The pain may last hours or days and may feel like it’s throbbing or pulsing. Other potential symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weakness, and sensitivity to light and sound. Some migraines also include aura, a particular set of neurological symptoms that can affect vision.
About 12% of the U.S. population suffers from migraines. Women, especially those with a family history of the condition, are more likely to suffer from migraines than men.
Tension headaches (also known as stress headaches) typically include dull pain, pressure, or tightness in the forehead or around the back of the head or neck. These headaches typically cause mild to moderate pain and can last half an hour to several days.
Other potential symptoms include tiredness, muscle aches, irritability, and difficulty focusing. Unlike migraines, tension headaches rarely cause nausea, vomiting, or weakness, and rarely worsen because of light or sound.
Tension headaches are common: up to 80% of American adults suffer from them occasionally. As with migraines, women are more likely to suffer from tension headaches than men.
The link between sleep deprivation and headaches is complex, but there is evidence that irregular sleep habits may trigger headaches and changes in sleep habits may trigger migraines.
Does a lack of sleep cause headaches? Though scientists aren’t sure, individuals who suffer from migraines are more likely to experience insufficient sleep. Furthermore, scientists have shown that a lack of sleep can increase the frequency and severity of migraines. Individuals with sleep disorders are more likely to experience headaches and migraines.
Sleep deprivation and migraines share common brain mechanisms, including the hypothalamus and the pineal gland, which produce melatonin.
A Missouri State University study demonstrated a connection between REM (rapid eye movement) sleep disruptions and proteins that affect pain. After scientists deprived rats of REM sleep for three nights, the rats secreted greater amounts of three proteins.
Two of these proteins regulate facial nerves, including the trigeminal nerve, which experts believe play a critical role in migraines. The third protein helps regulate chronic pain.
Experts also believe that sleep deprivation may reduce the body’s pain threshold. If so, poor sleep increases sensitivity to headache pain. Scientists are continuing to investigate how great sleep alleviates headaches and migraines.
Think you have a headache from not sleeping? There are simple steps you can take to help. To ensure you get quality REM sleep consistently, consider some simple behavior changes.
Additionally, select a mattress and pillows that will set you up for the best sleep possible. Together, these steps offer a potential cure to headaches from a lack of sleep.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is critical to restful sleep. Try these simple behavior changes to increase REM sleep and avoid headaches:
To get as much quality REM sleep as possible, optimize your bedroom for sleep. It should be dark, cool, and quiet and include a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillows. Ideally on a bed like our Posh and Lavish collection. Designed to give you the best sleep possible.
When your body is uncomfortable during sleep—say your arm falls asleep or your neck is at an awkward angle—you will unconsciously readjust to avoid the discomfort. Each readjustment causes you to toss and turn in your sleep, pulling you out of REM sleep.
Essentially, the more comfortable you are, the more uninterrupted REM sleep you’ll get. A properly fitted mattress and pillows will provide optimal comfort, leading to better REM sleep.
There are mattresses of all styles and designs available, but it’s important to choose one designed for your sleep habits. Experts recommend getting a properly fitted mattress that is as large as your bedroom will allow. Additionally, you should promptly replace worn-out mattresses.
At Mattress World Northwest, our sleep specialists will run a comprehensive sleep analysis to determine the optimal mattress for your needs. We have a wide variety of offerings, including adjustable beds, split-head mattresses, and mattresses for all types of sleepers. This allows us to offer a sleep solution to every guest, both online and in our stores.
We also provide pillow fittings and recommendations. Our sleep experts can show you how great sleep alleviates headaches and migraines—begin your sleep analysis today!