A Surprise: My Migraine Relief Also Helps Me Sleep

I sometimes wake up with a migraine. They always seem to sneak up to me in the night, and I wake to waves of pain, sweat, and nausea. All I can do is lie there and wait.

If you've ever had one, you know how debilitating they can be. Because I get very nauseous, it is difficult to take anything for the pain, so my "go-to" aid is an ice-cold damp rectangular handcloth or dishcloth over my face. It covers my eyes, and the coolness is very penetrating and soothing.

With this, I can lie there for hours while the episode passes. I'm lucky enough to have someone who can switch them out for me. My other half will put a damp one in the freezer and bring it to me, trading it out for the one that was just on my head.

A normal dip in body temperature

Although something like this might not treat longstanding insomnia, which tends to have a significant psychological component to it, it has occasionally helped me sleep as well.

A crucial feature of our sleeping cycle includes a long, slow dip in our body temperature toward its lowest point, which typically happens at around 3 to 4 AM. Without this lowering in our body temperature, sleeping can be a challenge.1

What happens if we are too cold or too hot?

If we are too cold, our body will shiver to generate heat from the muscle contractions – it is too cold to sleep if our bodies are worried about survival!

Conversely, it becomes difficult to sleep if it is too warm, as it makes it more challenging to hit those lower body temperatures. If we are active and our muscles are moving a lot, the heat would keep us awake even if our movement didn't.

Finding the right temperature

It can sometimes be a challenge to find the right balance between warm enough and cool enough. And it's very individual. Personally speaking, I need to have cold or cool air and a lovely puffy warm duvet. I don't do well if my bed is too cool or if the air is too warm – or heaven forbid – stuffy.

Having a cold cloth on my face helps me when the room is stuffy or the heat is on too long. It chills the air around my face and makes my face feel "light" and "fresh." It drains the tension out of my forehead and temples and feels so refreshing.

Associating a cold cloth with pain relief

The cold cloth is also something I very likely physically and subconsciously associate with an easing of pain and of deep rest (if not sleep, as I don't sleep with a migraine). These associations probably also help me in relaxing to sleep.

Usually, people suggest having a hot bath to prepare for bed – in part because it might help create an artificially created drop in body temperature as we cool down afterward. If you can't take hot baths, perhaps you can give this suggestion a try. Remember, it won't "cure" longstanding insomnia, but if you suspect that being too warm is a part of your sleep disruption, it may be worth a try.

Have you had any "accidental finds" that help you get consistent sleep? What are they? Leave a note in the comments – I'd love to hear about them.

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