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Sleep Problems, Headaches May Influence Each Other

Using sleep to treat headaches could set the stage for insomnia, research in women suggests

MONDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The use of sleep as a method of headache relief may help promote insomnia in women with tension-type headaches, according to research published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Jason C. Ong, Ph.D., of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues analyzed data from 32 college-age women with tension-type headache and 33 minimal-pain controls who were free of tension-type headache, migraine or history of chronic pain. Subjects reported whether headaches were triggered by stress or sleep problems and disclosed headache self-management strategies.

More participants in the headache group reported sleep problems and stress as headache triggers, the researchers report. In addition, more of the headache group reported using sleep as a way of coping with headaches. Among those who used sleep to treat headaches, they rated sleep as the most effective intervention, ahead of other strategies such as cold compresses or exercise, the report indicates.

Headache sufferers often have insomnia symptoms, the authors note. "The present findings are consistent with the hypothesis that going to sleep as a self-management strategy for headache pain might serve as a mediator of the relationship between headache and sleep disturbance," Ong and colleagues write. "In this hypothesis, people with headache face a unique dilemma: the efforts to manage headache pain by going to sleep might serve as a behavioral risk factor for developing insomnia."

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