Background: Sleep problems have been linked with headaches for more than a century, but whether the headaches are the cause or the result of the disrupted sleep is unknown.
Objectives: We previously reported that nonrestorative sleep and poor sleep habits are almost universal in a referral population of women with transformed migraine (TM). Since cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in improving sleep quality in individuals with poor sleep hygiene, we designed a randomized, placebo-controlled study to assess the impact of such treatment on TM. We hypothesized that behavioral sleep modification (BSM) would be associated with improvement in headache frequency and intensity and with reversion to episodic migraine.
Methods: Subjects were 43 women with TM referred to an academic headache center. After obtaining informed consent, patients were randomized to receive either behavioral sleep instructions or placebo behavioral instructions in addition to usual medical care. Subjects recorded headaches in standardized diaries. The first postintervention visit was scheduled at 6 weeks. At that visit, the blind was broken and all subjects received BSM instructions. A final visit was scheduled 6 weeks later.
Results: Compared to the placebo behavioral group, the BSM group reported statistically significant reduction in headache frequency [F (1, 33 = 12.42, P=.001)] and headache intensity [F(1, 33 = 14.39, P= .01)]. They were more likely to revert to episodic migraine chi2 (2, n = 43) = 7.06, P= .029. No member of the control group reverted to episodic migraine by the first postintervention visit. By the final visit, 48.5% of those who had received BSM instructions had reverted to episodic migraine.
Conclusions: In this pilot study of women with TM, we found that a targeted behavioral sleep invention was associated with improvement in headache frequency, headache index, and with reversion to episodic migraine.