Emily Law, Ph.D., shares insights on better sleep for young adults living with migraine.
Studies have shown that teens get diagnosed with migraine just as often as adults, and it can be just as debilitating. Many even have difficulty doing the things that make the typical high school experience, like going to school, doing homework and hanging out with friends. Besides the head pain, what often makes these activities hard to complete is issues caused by lack of sleep.
“Sleep problems are the most common comorbidity of migraine in teens,” said Dr. Emily Law, Pediatric Psychologist and Researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. While studying the impact of migraine on teens and their families, she found that good sleep hygiene is crucial to pain management.
Do Teens Need More Sleep?
Teens typically need more sleep than adults and children, and Law recommends they aim to get 9 to 10 hours in each night. A full schedule can make that much harder than it seems, so in a recent Facebook live chat hosted by the American Migraine Foundation, she shared her top five tips for helping your teen get a good night sleep.
Tip 1 – Set Them Up for Success
The first step to getting your teen to sleep through the night is looking at how their day is set up. Late night study sessions or early practices could be blocking them from reaching the 9 to 10 hours they need, so a big part of establishing good sleep hygiene is making sure their schedule allows for it. If it doesn’t, it’s time to make some adjustments.
“It’s important to try and arrange both your schedules so that they have the opportunity to sleep as much as possible,” said Law. “That might mean rethinking homework schedules or helping them cut down their morning routines so they can sleep in as late as possible.”
Tip 2 – Bring Back Bedtime
“The cool thing about sleep is that it’s a learned behavior,” said Law. “Your body can learn to fall asleep fast and fall asleep well based around a consistent sleep schedule. This has even been shown to work when dealing with insomnia symptoms. “
Having an established bed and wake time can do wonders for a bad sleep schedule, no matter how juvenile it might sound. It creates an internal signal within your body that lets it know it’s time to wind down to fall asleep. Law advises making it so your child’s sleep and wake time are roughly within the same 60 to 90 minutes every day.
Tip 3 – Give Their Bed a Sole Purpose
If your child uses their bed exclusively for sleep at night time, their body will eventually grow accustomed to the routine. According to Dr. Law, your teen’s bed should be a sacred place used only for sleep at night time. “It’s common for teens experiencing a migraine to want to crawl into bed and rest, but they should really try to find other places in their home or bedroom to rest comfortably. Maybe a bean bag or a couch.”
Tip 4 – Make a No Phone Zone
Studies have shown that the blue tinted light the comes from phones and other electronic devices can throw off your body’s sleep schedule. “Even something as simple as a Facebook alert can disrupt your sleep and is ultimately not helpful when dealing with sleep issues caused by migraine,” said Law.
Law advises investing in an old-school alarm clock to help make this a little easier, since most teens use that function on their phone regularly. Having a real alarm clock can help your teen feel more at ease about keeping their phone in a common area of the house overnight.
Tip 5 – Create a Wind Down Routine
Law’s final tip focused on creating list of things to do before bed, to let your body know it’s time to start winding down. This can include anything from reading a few pages of a book to showering and setting up for the next day. Keep in mind, they shouldn’t be too stimulating.
“Many of my patients favor setting up for the next day because it gives them the opportunity to sleep in,” said Law. “It’s great if they can do something that makes them feel good about the day ahead.
Knowledge is a powerful tool for migraine management, which is why it’s important to stay up to date on news and the latest research. The American Migraine Foundation maintains a comprehensive resource library full of fact sheets, toolkits and advice sourced directly from the nation’s leading migraine specialists, and distributes a monthly newsletter with the latest migraine news you need to know. Visit AMF’s website to learn more and to find a headache doctor near you.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.