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Do migraines and sleep problems go together for kids and teens?

Posted on March 1st, 2021

A study published in Pediatric Neurology recently explored connections between migraines and sleep disturbances in children and teens. In an article in Neurology Advisor, one of the study’s authors explained their findings.

Migraines and sleep disturbances are both on the rise. As many as 9.1% of American children and teens experience migraines, and many of the same brain structures involved in migraines are also involved in healthy sleep. Researchers found a bidirectional relationship between migraines and sleep issues. Migraines can cause sleep issues, but sleep issues can also trigger migraines. For kids with migraines, sleep hygiene can be an important part of the treatment puzzle.

The researchers found that kids with migraines were more prone than kids without migraines to have…

  • Colic as a baby
  • Night terrors
  • Bedwetting
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
  • RLS

Additionally, anxiety, depression, and stress increased the frequency and severity of both migraines and sleep disorders.

What can parents do to help their kids? 

The researchers presented several ways to treat sleep disorders to improve sleep and reduce the number of migraines.

First, they suggested that any child with migraines receive an exam that includes a complete sleep history, physical examination, and referral for a sleep study if there is a history of sleep disturbance. You can ask your pediatrician or dentist about screening for sleep issues and referrals for further testing.

Therapies that have shown effectiveness for both Migraine and sleep disorders include…

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on improving sleep skills
  • Melatonin to improve sleep
  • Identifying low iron and supplementing if necessary
  • Managing stress
  • Getting adequate amounts of sunlight and exercise during the day
  • Keeping beds for sleep – no electronics in bed
  • Treating anxiety and depression to improve migraines and sleep

Migraines and sleep disturbances are hard on both kids and parents. By getting your kid screened and treated, you can help them get better rest, have more good days, and succeed in their personal and academic lives.

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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