Migraines are one of the most daunting problems facing modern medicine. There are medications that may help prevent migraines and others that can help with the headaches when they do occur. However, these are not always effective and can have various side effects. This leaves millions of people suffering from the pain, nausea, auras and other effects of this common condition, with no relief in sight. So what is a migraine sufferer supposed to do? According to new research, promoting healthy levels of the sleep hormone melatonin may be the answer for some.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced in your pineal gland and released when your eyes do not sense light. Melatonin is responsible for regulating our sleep cycles and inducing sleep. However, it has a variety of other effects on our bodies as well. Melatonin has been implicated as playing a major role in GI health and may even help protect against certain types of cancer.
More important for migraine sufferers, it has been found to be effective at soothing minor pain and is beginning to be used to help in cases of cluster headaches. Melatonin appears to have a modulating effect on nerve pathways that carry pain signals, preventing overactivity in these circuits.
Links Between Melatonin and Migraine
Sleep plays an important role in migraines. Migraine sufferers who have disrupted sleep are more likely to get headaches more often and to suffer from worse pain when they have these migraines. There is significant evidence that people who get migraines often have sleep disorders linked to a lack of melatonin. People who have low levels of melatonin have a lower stimulation threshold in their trigeminal nerve, which is the nerve that is most commonly implicated in migraine pain. The link between melatonin and migraine is clear, but could promoting healthy levels of this natural substance really help?
Could Sleep and Melatonin Help Your Migraines?
There is significant research maintaining healthy levels of melatonin through supplementation and other means may be helpful for many migraine sufferers. Melatonin has been shown to be more effective than popular preventive medications, and it comes with a much lower risk of harmful side effects. In addition, taking melatonin at the onset of a migraine may help reduce some of the symptoms once they have begun. Melatonin slightly lowers the rate of nerve firing in the neural pathways that carry pain signals, especially those in the head, face and neck. This includes the trigeminal pathway, which has been repeatedly implicated as a major source of migraine pain.
These discoveries were made after scientists observed that people who suffer from migraines are less likely to get them at night and also have lower levels of pain during night migraines. If the melatonin made by our brains protects us partially from the symptoms of a migraine, it’s possible that a melatonin supplement could have the same effect. In addition, melatonin is safe and has no side effects for many people.
Stopping Migraines the Natural Way
If you suffer from migraines and are trying to find natural solutions that might be helpful, there are a few things that you can try. First, even low dose melatonin taken at night before sleep may have a positive effect, especially on your quality of rest. In addition, taking measures to improve your own melatonin production without supplements also can help. Reduce your light exposure at night and practice good sleep hygiene, including going to bed at the same time every night. These measures may help protect against a migraine, but also leave you feeling better rested in the morning. As with all lifestyle changes, it is important to discuss these changes with your doctor before making them.
Research suggests that supporting healthy melatonin production and getting a good night’s rest are both a potential solution for many people who have been suffering from this debilitating disorder.