Sleep disturbances in tension-type headache and migraine

Ther Adv Neurol Disord. 2017 Dec 6;11:1756285617745444. doi: 10.1177/1756285617745444. eCollection 2018.


Current research into the pathogenesis of tension-type headache (TTH) and migraine is focused on altered nociceptive pain processing. Among the potential factors that influence sensitization mechanisms, emotional stress, depression, or sleep disorders all have an essential role: they increase the excitability of nociceptive firing and trigger hyperalgesic responses. Sleep disturbances and headache disorders share common brain structures and pathogenic mechanisms and TTH, migraine, and sleep disturbances often occur together; for example, 50% of individuals who have either TTH or migraine have insomnia. Moreover, insomnia and poor sleep quality have been associated with a higher frequency and intensity of headache attacks, supporting the notion that severity and prevalence of sleep problems correlate with headache burden. It should be noted that the association between headaches and sleep problems is bidirectional: headache can promote sleep disturbances, and sleep disturbances can also precede or trigger a headache attack. Therefore, a better understanding of the factors that affect sleep quality in TTH and migraine can assist clinicians in determining better and adequate therapeutic programs. In this review, the role of sleep disturbances in headaches, and the association with depression, emotional stress, and pain sensitivity in individuals with TTH or migraine are discussed.

Keywords: headache; insomnia; migraine; sleep; tension-type headache.

Publication types

  • Review