Sleeping to relieve tension-induced headaches may lead to chronic insomnia

February 16th, 2009 - 1:32 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 16 (ANI): A new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center has revealed that using sleep or napping to cope with chronic pain caused by tension-type headaches could lead to chronic insomnia.

In the study, researchers found that napping to relieve headache pain could serve as a behavioral link between headaches and sleep disturbance.

For the study, they compared a group of 32 women who were confirmed to have tension-type headaches, as classified by the International Headache Society System, to a control group of 33 women who experience minimal pain.

Eighty-one percent of the women in the headache group reported going to sleep as a way of managing their headaches; this method was also rated as the most effective self-management strategy for pain.

Lead author, Jason C. Ong, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center, said the extent to which the headache sufferers rated sleep as being an effective method for coping with pain was somewhat surprising.

Insomnia is a common complaint among headache sufferers. While napping may relieve pain, it may also decrease the brains need for sleep at night, leading to reduced ability to initiate and maintain sleep at night, said Ong.

The researchers found that 58 percent of those with tension-type headaches reported sleep problems as a trigger of headaches compared to 18 percent of those who only suffer minimal headache pain.

Similar studies have found that sleep disturbances, which include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, have been identified as a risk factor for developing chronic headaches.

Women in the headache group also reported a significantly higher rating of pain interfering with sleep compared to the control group. No significant differences were found between the groups on use of medication to relieve headaches.

Ong encourages further behavioral treatment studies to examine alternative coping strategies for pain that do not involve sleep.

The study is published in the February 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. (ANI)

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