Many people suffer from either the inability to fall asleep or the inability to stay asleep. Though individualized, most people require 7-8 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. If you find yourself falling asleep during quiet activities such as reading, being a passenger in a car, waiting in a Doctor’s office or during lectures or talks, then your body is not getting its required number of hours. Lack of adequate sleep can lend to multiple health problems including increasing headaches. The suggestions below can help you attain the adequate rest that your mind and body require.
Pick a bedtime and an awakening time that allows you at least 7 hours of rest. Go to bed the same time every night and awaken each morning at the same time, even on weekends.
Do not drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for 4-6 hours prior to bedtime.
Eat a light, easily digestible snack before bed. Sometimes foods high in tryptophan such as oatmeal with raisins, whole grain cereal with milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwich (if not a trigger), turkey and the old standby warm milk can help with sleep.
Maintain a regular exercise routine. Avoid exercising within 3-4 hours of bedtime.
Develop a pre-sleep routine and maintain this every night starting 15-30 minutes prior to bedtime. This helps your body and mind realize that it is time for bed.
Do quiet and restful activities to help wind down from your busy day for 1-2 hours prior to bed.
Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep. Maintain a regular temperature, decrease noise and disruptions, keep lights low and keep the bedroom for sleep and sexual activity. Do not do activities such as reading, watching TV or worrying. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and not worn out.
You should be able to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, if not, get out of bed. This includes times you wake up in the middle of the night. The worst thing that will happen is that your body will be exhausted and you are more likely to sleep the next night.
Sometimes the Lavender scent can help induce sleep. Lavender sachets, linens and room sprays may be helpful. Make sure this is not a trigger for your headaches.
Ice Cream Headaches (and other food for thought)
Certain foods contain chemicals which may cause blood vessel dilation. Alone in or combination, they may trigger a vascular headache in susceptible individuals. Careful attention to the foods you have consumed prior to headache onset will help you isolate your food triggers and avoid them.
- Chocolate: candy, food, drinks
- Excess Sugar: candy, cookies, cakes
- Ripened Cheeses: cheddar, brick, mozzarella, gruyere, emmantaler, stilton, brie, camembert, boursalt
- Dairy Products: milk, ice cream, etc.
- Alcohol: beer, red wine, sherry, etc.
- Fruit and fruit juices: bananas, plantains, avocados, figs, passion fruit, raisins, pineapple, citrus
- Vegetables: onions, pods of broad beans (lima, navy, pea pods), nuts, peanut butter
- Fermented, pickled, marinated: Herring, sour cream, yogurt, vinegar
- Yeast: yeast extracts, fresh bread, raised cakes, doughnuts
- Nitrites: processed meats such as bologna, hot dogs, pepperoni, salami, pastrami, bacon, sausage, canned ham, corned beef; smoked fish
- Sulfites: salad bars, shrimp, wines, soft drinks
- MSG (Monosodium Glutamate): Chinese food, Accent, Lawrey’s Seasoned Salt, convenience foods (tv dinners, canned soups), roasted nuts, potato chips
- Aspartame: sweeteners such as Nutrasweet and others, in sugar-free and diet foods, diet soft drinks
- Caffeine: coffee, tea, colas, Mountain Dew, “energy” drinks, OTC stimulants
Sometimes there is no obvious cause for a headache, but for some people there are triggers. A headache diary may help. Track your headaches on a calendar to find potential patterns or causes.
Headache Management Diary
Migraine eDiary – Free App
I Headache – Headache and Migraine Diary Free App
The mission of the American Migraine Foundation is to mobilize a community for patient support and advocacy, as well as drive and support impactful research that translates into treatment advances for patients with migraine and other disabling diseases that cause severe head pain.