Primary Headache and Sleep Disturbances in Adolescents

Keywords: headache; sleep; adolescents, trigger point, migraines, children, teens

Deborah K. Gilman PhD, Tonya M. Palermo PhD, Marielle A. Kabbouche MD, Andrew D. Hershey MD, PhD, Scott W. Powers, PhD, ABPP

Objective.—The aim of the present study was to assess sleep patterns and the prevalence of sleep problems in adolescents with primary headaches using a validated sleep screening instrument, as well as to test the association between headache and pain features and adolescent sleep behaviors.

Background.—Sleep disturbance is a common complaint that has long been associated with primary headaches, but there exists limited evidence of the headache-sleep relationship among teens.

Methods.—Sixty-nine adolescents aged 13 to 17 years (M= 14.7; SD= 1.4) were evaluated for headaches at 2 pediatric neurology departments (90% migraine; 10% tension-type headache diagnoses). Participants completed the School Sleep Habits Questionnaire and a standardized questionnaire regarding headache characteristics.

Results.—Sleep complaints were prevalent among adolescents with headaches including insufficient total sleep (65.7%), daytime sleepiness (23.3%), difficulty falling asleep (40.6%), and night wakings (38%). Statistically significant relationships between headache characteristics (eg, frequency, pain intensity) and teen sleep behaviors also emerged.

Conclusions.—Our findings provide further support for an association between headache and sleep disturbances among adolescents with primary headaches. This information may provide further understanding of the nature and course of the patient’s headache experience, as well as facilitate treatment planning to include recommendations for promoting good sleep hygiene.

As this study indicated, 65% of the adolescents with headaches reported insufficient total sleep. Lack of sleep, as we know, can lead to many health problems. If your child is complaining of headaches, it’s important to identify and treat the cause. Many headaches are triggered and maintained by muscle, nerve, or joint problems. Decreasing and controlling these triggers can decrease the frequency and/or intensity of the headaches. Dr. Stan Farrell is well versed in the treatment of all headaches and uses conservative, non narcotic treatment methods that are proven to provide relief over the long term without the dangers of addiction to prescription medication. Call and schedule a consultation with Dr. Farrell today at 480-945-3629.