Migraines are one of the most disabling conditions in the world. They cost billions in terms of lost work and productivity. But as costly as migraines are, they are poorly understood, and as a result they often go untreated or are barely treated. Most migraine sufferers have tried many, many different treatments to address their headaches, and, unfortunately, many people in Omaha are still unhappy with migraine treatment.
Given this situation, it seems that we should try to find all potential causes of migraines and use all potential cures. But many doctors treating migraineurs don’t ask about sleep apnea symptoms, despite sleep apnea being a common cause of headaches. At the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha, we want to help everyone get relief from headaches and other common sleep apnea symptoms.
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.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Reduces Migraine Burden
Once we know that there’s a connection between these conditions, we have to ask: how significant is that association? The tremendous improvement of migraineurs who get their sleep apnea treated argues that the connection is very significant.
In one study, sleep apnea treatment reduced the average duration of migraine attacks drop from 22 hours to three. They also had their migraine attacks drop from 1.2 per week to 0.1. That level of improvement is better than most migraine drugs and other conventional treatments.
At the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha, we believe in trying to match all patients with the treatment that suits them. We know not every person with migraines will benefit from sleep apnea treatment. However, nearly half of men with migraines and more than half of people with chronic migraine might be at high risk for sleep apnea. The potential for relief argues that we must at least test for the condition when planning treatment.
Why Migraine Doctors Don’t Ask about Sleep Apnea
Despite the great potential for benefit, not all migraine doctors may ask their patients about sleep apnea. If you go to a neurological clinic or a pain clinic in Omaha, doctors are less likely to ask you about your sleep quality. A chiropractor thinks in terms of whiplash, not sleep quality.
Part of the reason may be that some research suggests migraines and sleep apnea aren’t linked. But even if we grant that they may not be linked to the general population of migraineurs, it’s likely that many people with migraines may benefit from sleep apnea treatment.
Another part of the reason is just that doctors often don’t think about sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea occurs at night and many of the symptoms may overlap with other conditions, doctors often let sleep apnea go undiagnosed. This may be even more pronounced for headache specialists who sometimes believe that a separate issue may be causing your headaches.
Take Action for Better Migraine Treatment in Omaha
If your doctor isn’t taking action on your risk of sleep apnea, it’s time for you to take over. Bring the issue up with your doctor. And if your doctor still won’t act, take steps to get a sleep apnea test for yourself. We help people in the Omaha area get a sleep test. Most people qualify for a home sleep test.
If you are looking for help with your sleep apnea in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, located in North Omaha in Northport.