Headache and Snoring May Indicate Potential Sleep Disorder

The 10th Congress of the International Headache Society convened in New York City for the 2001 convention. Several studies suggested potential links between headaches and sleep disorders. Recent studies from Dartmouth Medical School and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health suggested that frequent headaches and sleep apnea are often associated. Snoring may be an indicator of sleep apnea, which could potentially lead to changes in the brain and “increased risk of cardiovascular problems.”

One study from Dartmouth indicated that 35% of the 826 patients who were tested for sleep disorders complained of morning headaches and 19% said that the headaches were daily of near-daily occurrences. Most of those patients who complained of morning headaches (67%) were found to have sleep apnea, which led to hypoxemia (decreased oxygen) or hypercapnia (increased Carbon Dioxide). In addition, 84% were snorers and the majority of these patients had fragmented sleep aggravating to migraine or chronic headaches.

Researchers have also indicate that studies have shown that once the breathing disorder has been treated and the breathing improves, the headache often improves and the risk of cardiovascular complication is also decreased. Treatment options include weight loss, sleeping on one’s side, mouth repositioning devices, and pressurized breathing devices.

In the Johns Hopkins study, 206 people with daily headache (at least every other day) and 507 people suffering from an average number of headaches (two per month) completed a survey on how often they snored. Irrespective of age and sex, and after taking into account factors known to cause snoring, people with chronic daily headaches were 2.5 times more likely to snore than regular people. However, many physicians do not routinely ask about snoring or sleep problems when treating patients with headaches.

Adopted from Neurology Reviews, October 2001