It is one of the worst things when you wake up with a migraine, isn’t it?
You went to bed perfectly fine and then – of all things – you wake up in that all too-well-known and unpredictable pain. What happened? You were fine when you went to bed.
“Morning migraine” is especially frustrating to a migraine sufferer since very often, it seems as if nothing special or specific happened during the night, or even the night before, to make this happen.
So why is this happening? Is it possible to stop this cycle you sometimes find yourself in?
Why are you waking up with migraine pain?
While there isn’t always a great or definitive answer for migraine sufferers, research has shown some possible explanations.
According to WebMD, “Migraines and sleep appear to have a distinct, albeit complicated relationship. Both too little and too much sleep can trigger a migraine attack.”
Did you know that 4/5 migraine sufferers have sleep problems?
You could be experiencing rebound headaches. It’s possible that if you took medication, such as triptans that lasts for 24 hours or Excedrin that lasts for 6 hours, the pain relief may have worn off during the night and although you stopped or decreased the pain initially and went to sleep fine, the pain meds have worn off and you are back in the cycle again.
Interestingly, the early morning hours (between 4 and 8 a.m.) are when the body has its lowest levels of natural painkillers, so most headaches — including cluster headaches, migraines, and those caused by muscle tension — can be present when you wake up.
It’s possible you are now suffering the effecting of yesterday’s stress.
Dr. E.L. Spierings of Tufts University states, “The headaches which developed during the morning or afternoon were preceded by increased tension the previous days.” That goes along with the “stress let-down effect,” which is talked about in other research.
For example, you have been stressed out, take a vacation, and often find yourself with a migraine on the first day of vacation. I know this has happened to me in the past. Once I get over that initial stress-induced (or “stress let-down effect”) migraine, I have been fine for the remainder of my vacation.
In thinking about ” morning migraine syndrome,” think about it like this…
You went back to work Monday and it was a very intense and stressful day at work. When you went home, to alleviate the stress and tension, you decided to unwind by “binge watching” episodes of your favorite crime series, drama, or comedy show, while eating some cookies or chocolate and drinking a glass of wine. Since you want to make the most of this “winding down time,” you end up going to bed later than usual. To top it off, you wake up at 3 a.m. and there’s a thunderstorm outside. Still, you go back to sleep. When you wake up the next morning, you wake up with intense head pressure and pain. You hit the snooze button a couple of times hoping to sleep a little bit longer. While you are dozing in and out, you are trying to decide how bad the pain is and how you’re going to deal with it – again!
So in this scenario, here’s what could be happening: a small dose of caffeine + poor quality, off-cycle sleep + low natural painkillers + work stress exposure + weather trigger = Morning Migraine.
Some things we do know — triggers are additive and migraineurs have individualized responses to the same environmental stimuli. If you do nothing, you’ll be almost guaranteed that history is going to repeat itself. In fact, treating it the same way you always have increases the chance of another “morning migraine” as you experience that rebound effect.
What’s the solution?
We have talked often about different techniques to naturally help with migraine relief — such as relaxation, exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep, etc. I know from experience how discouraging it can be, as a migraine sufferer, to feel as if you are on a merry-go-round of pain and discomfort and things can never change. I am here to encourage you and give you hope that things CAN change. I have seen it in my own life as a result of lifestyle changes and natural remedies I have added. I’ve seen the same results in other people’s lives. This is not a “pipe dream.” You can experience relief too. Lifestyle changes and natural remedies have a very powerful effect on migraine prevention and pain levels.