402-493-4175

Migraines and Sleep Apnea

By Dr. Roger Roubal

If you are experiencing frequent migraine attacks and neither your preventive nor your abortive medications are doing enough to control your headaches, it’s time to consider whether another disorder may be making your headaches worse. Although not enough people are familiar with sleep apnea, more than a third of migraine sufferers have the condition. Sleep apnea can make migraines longer, stronger, and more frequent.

The good news is that treating sleep apnea can reverse this effect. It can almost completely eliminate migraines in some cases, and many people find it works better than their dedicated migraine treatment. If you’d like to learn whether sleep apnea treatment can help your migraines in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.

Does Sleep Apnea Cause Migraines?

Although we are still not entirely certain of the mechanism that causes migraines, it seems unlikely that sleep apnea is the actual cause of migraines. However, there is some interaction between the two conditions. Sleep apnea is more common among people with migraines, and migraineurs who have sleep apnea tend to have more frequent and more disabling migraines.

How Can Sleep Apnea Trigger Migraines?

There are many mechanisms by which sleep apnea could trigger migraines. The first is just that you get less sleep. Although you may think that you’re sleeping six or eight hours, you’re actually getting much less. You may be waking up hundreds of times a night (although you don’t know it), and you may never reach the restful REM sleep. REM sleep deprivation has been shown to significantly impact the occurrence of migraines.

Sleep apnea could also contribute to stress levels. Sleep apnea triggers the release of stress hormones during apneic episodes. Instead of getting rest at night, your body is being intermittently dosed with stress, which can lead to more migraines. And when you’re getting less sleep, you may find it harder to deal with the stresses of daily life. This can increase your stress levels as well, leading to more migraines.

Can Sleep Apnea Treatment Really Reduce Migraines?

Yes. Unlike migraines, sleep apnea has the advantage of having several very effective treatment approaches that can essentially eliminate the condition when used properly. And these treatments have been shown to reduce or eliminate migraine attacks.

Often, the frontline treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), which is basically a pump that forces air into your mouth, nose, and/or throat to keep your airway open.

CPAP has been shown to be very effective at treating migraine. When treated, people with migraines and sleep apnea saw their migraine frequency decrease by 92%, their migraine duration decrease by 86%, their migraine severity decrease by 89%, and their medication usage drop by over 95%.

Despite its effectiveness, CPAP poses a major problem for migraine sufferers: it’s hard to keep using it. Although CPAP was very effective, most people stopped using it. By one year after starting treatment, only 58% of people in the study were still using their CPAP. By two years after, only 44% were still using their CPAP.

Fortunately, oral appliance therapy has also shown effectiveness in reducing migraines–and people are much more likely to keep using it.

Other sleep apnea treatments haven’t really been tested to relieve migraines.

Are You Ready for a Different Migraine Strategy?

If you’re unhappy with the results of your current migraine strategy, it may be time to try something different. Sleep apnea treatment may be just the right approach to achieving migraine relief.

To see whether sleep apnea treatment can reduce or eliminate your migraines in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.

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