The study was published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
Developing more effective pain-management strategies may be the best way to disrupt this headache-insomnia cycle, the researchers said. Unfortunately, different types of headaches may call for different treatments, and it's often difficult to determine the best approach.
"The treatment for migraines is somewhat different than TTH," said de la Vega. "The question is whether better management during wake-hours, so as to avoid just taking a nap, could prevent the disruption of the physiology of sleep at night, and that answer is uncertain but makes intuitive sense."
Ong said: "Doing some kind of relaxation technique is one way to cope with pain, so that might be one thing to attempt. Are there existing interventions that might be helpful for people who have both insomnia and headaches or do we have to come up with something else?"
The experts agreed that people who suffer from headaches or insomnia should see a doctor to discuss the best individual treatment.
"The main thing is that if people have headaches and also sleep difficulties, they should communicate that information to their health-care provider," said Ong.
"Migraine sufferers should see their primary doctor or preferably a neurologist," added de la Vega. "Appropriate prophylactic and quenching medications should be tried, food/activity triggers should be avoided, and if insomnia is a trigger, an assessment of sleep hygiene may be helpful."
For more on headaches, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
SOURCES: Jason C. Ong, Ph.D., assistant professor, behavioral sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Frederick de la Vega, M.D., neurologist, Scripps Memorial
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