Migraine Briefs

Exploring Link Between Sleep Disorders and Migraine

Headache; ePub 2018 Aug 8; Vgontzas, Pavlović


Anatomic localization (the hypothalamus as a key and early mediator in the pathophysiology of migraine), common mediating signaling molecules (such as serotonin and dopamine), and the discovery of a new central nervous system waste removal system, the glymphatic system, all point to a common pathophysiology manifesting in migraine and sleep problems, according to recent research. Patients consistently report poor sleep prior to migraine attacks and during them, identifying poor sleep as a migraine trigger. However, anecdotally, sleep is reported to serve a therapeutic role in terminating headache. Researchers reviewed studies of sleep and migraine from the last 2 decades, utilizing validated subjective and objective measures of sleep and to explore potential mechanisms underlying this complex relationship by incorporating recent advances in neuroscience. They specifically focused on:

  • insomnia,
  • obstructive sleep apnea,
  • parasomnias,
  • sleep-related movement disorders, and
  • rapid eye movement (REM) sleep-related disorders and their relationship to migraine.

In addition, parts of brainstem‐cortical networks involved in sleep physiology are unintentionally being identified as important factors in the common migraine pathway.

Vgontzas A, Pavlović JM. Sleep disorders and migraine: Review of literature and potential pathophysiology mechanisms. [Published online ahead of print August 8, 2018]. Headache. doi:10.1111/head.13358.

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