Sleep disturbances appear to be a trigger for migraine headaches, according to a new study.
"We found that low sleep efficiency, which is the amount of time you're awake in bed when you're trying to sleep, was associated with migraines not on the day immediately following, but on the day after that," said study co-author Dr. Suzanne Bertisch, a sleep specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
The finding supports claims by nearly half of people with the debilitating headaches.
The study included 98 adults who had at least two migraines, but fewer than 15, each month. They recorded details about their sleep, migraines and health habits for six weeks. During that time, they also wore a device on their wrist that recorded their sleep patterns.
The participants had a total of 870 migraines during the six weeks.
After adjusting for other migraine triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, physical activity and stress, the researchers found that getting 6.5 hours or less of sleep a night and poor sleep quality were not associated with migraines the day immediately after (day 0) or the day after that (day 1).
However, sleep disturbances were associated with a higher risk of a migraine on day 1, according to the study.
"When it comes to sleep and migraines, there's a lot that we don't know. I became interested in this topic because migraine patients are frequently referred to me in the sleep clinic for help with treating their insomnia," Bertisch said in a hospital news release.
"Anyone treating these patients wants to be able to counsel them on what to do to decrease their risk of a migraine, but the literature is unclear on what kind of sleep interventions may be helpful," she added.
Additional research is needed to learn more about the link between sleep fragmentation and migraine risk before it may be possible to develop preventive measures, the study authors said.
The findings were published Dec. 16 in the journal Neurology.