If you’ve ever lain down for a restful night’s sleep only to wake up hours later with an unbearable migraine, you may suffer from hypnic headaches. These nighttime migraines, often referred to as alarm clock headaches, are most common in those over age 50.
Recurring nighttime headaches are relatively new to the migraneur community. Hypnic headache syndrome was first characterized in 1988 and, similar to daytime migraines, the exact cause is yet to be identified.
Research has identified some possible triggers. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can trigger a nighttime migraine. Those that suffer from this disorder stop breathing during the night, which results in a lack of oxygen to the brain and could lead to a hypinic migraine. Other migraine triggers that are commonly associated with nighttime headaches are:
• Intense exercise before bed
• Overuse of pain killers
To avoid the onset of nighttime headaches, keep track of your triggers and avoid them especially around bedtime. Skip the cigar and nightcap or coffee with your evening dessert and instead opt for a glass of water and some relaxation exercises before you go hit the sack. It’s also important to establish regular sleep hours — even during the weekends to help keep your nighttime migraines at bay. Finally, keep your bedroom free of air fresheners and limit nocturnal distractions by closing the doors and installing a fan in your bedroom.
Also, check to see that medications you take during the day aren’t contributing to your nighttime migraine. Medications that contain caffeine or other stimulants — even those used to treat migraines — may interfere with sleep and lead to a migraine. If you’re taking painkillers during the day to quell the effects of your migraines, the absence of these medications at night may leave your body in withdrawal, which could trigger a headache.
One way to avoid these “rebound headaches,” which are actually caused by the headache treatment, is to use a remedy that does not contain these headache-causing agents. Natural remedies such as LipiGesic M, containing the active ingredients feverfew and ginger, have been shown in clinical trials to provide relief without the rebound effect.
If you are awakened during the night with migraine pain, treat your symptoms with a migraine remedy or prescription, then elevate your back, shoulders and head and try to go back to sleep or at the very least, rest.
While the majority of nighttime migraines, though painful, are benign, suffers should check with their doctor to ensure these severe headaches are not indicators of a more serious condition.