Screening Migraineurs for Sleep Apnea
Some studies highlight the strong link between migraines and sleep apnea. In this survey, researchers surveyed nearly 13,000 people with migraines but were not diagnosed with sleep apnea. Researchers asked about many relevant health factors. To screen for sleep apnea risk, researchers used the Berlin Questionnaire, a well-established sleep apnea screening tool.
Of those surveyed, about 37% scored as high risk for sleep apnea, which is significantly higher than the estimates for sleep apnea in the general population. (Estimates vary, but most experts accept that 25% of men and 10% of women likely have sleep apnea.) With the high number of respondents in the survey, these results imply a very strong connection between migraines and sleep apnea.
In addition, the results showed that sleep apnea risk was strongly associated with chronic migraine. In chronic migraine, people experience 15 or more migraine days per month. Nearly 52% of people with chronic migraine scored “high risk” for sleep apnea. Those at high risk for sleep apnea were more likely to report disturbed sleep, snoring, shortness of breath, and daytime sleepiness. In addition, men with migraines were more likely to be at high risk for sleep apnea (44% vs. 35% of women).
This confirms the results of a more random sample of 40,000 people in Norway, which found that people with headaches on 15 or more days a month were 2.74 times as likely to have excessive daytime sleepiness.
A systematic review showed that people with sleep apnea were less likely to report migraine than other types of headaches, such as headaches on waking. However, one study of patients recruited from a neurology clinic showed that chronic migraine without aura predicted sleep apnea.