Science Reporting

Sleep fragmenting linked to the risk of migraine headaches

Non-continuous sleep, understood as fragmented sleep, can be linked to an increased risk of migraines unlike the duration of sleep itself and the low quality of general sleep. This was achieved by a group of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who published their study on Neurology.

The relationship between sleep and migraine, despite all previous studies, has never been fully understood. The researchers tried to fill this gap by conducting a prospective cohort study on 98 adults with episodic migraine characterized by less than 15 days a month with headaches. Survey participants had to complete electronic journals twice a day recording various details and information related to sleep, headaches and general health habits for six weeks.

In addition, other data came from a wrist device that more objectively captured their sleep patterns. The researchers also considered other factors that could trigger migraine headaches including daily caffeine intake, alcohol intake, physical activity levels, stress and others.

Eventually, the researchers found that the length of sleep, even for people who slept less than 6.5 hours a night, and the poor quality of sleep were not related to migraine the next day or even the day after. What seemed to be related to the increased risk of migraine was the fragmentation of sleep, regularly measured by researchers not only through the diaries compiled by participants but also through the wrist device.

Suzanne Bertisch, an experienced researcher in sleep and circadian disorders at the Brigham and author of the article, explains the results as follows: “Sleep is multidimensional and when we looked at some aspects of sleep, we found that low sleep efficiency, which is the amount of time you are awake in bed when you are trying to sleep, was associated with migraines not the next day, but the day after. However, we have not observed a relationship between the short duration of sleep at night (less than 6.5 hours) or the quality of sleep and the risk of migraines.”