One in four people with migraines has sleep apnea, which has led some people to wonder whether sleep apnea might contribute to migraines. If so, then sleep apnea treatment should give migraine relief, and, according to a small new study, that seems to be the case. However, researchers used CPAP, which limited the effectiveness of the results and leads us to wonder whether a CPAP alternative might help more people to get relief.
CPAP Reduces Migraines
To see whether sleep apnea helps migraines, researchers selected 41 subjects out of 314 potential participants with sleep apnea. The average apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) was 27, toward the upper end of the moderate range. The subjects had different type of migraines: 21 had migraine with aura, 19 had migraine without aura, and one had chronic migraine.
Patients were treated with CPAP, and those who complied with the treatment had significant improvement in their migraine symptoms, with both the intensity and frequency reducing. They went from an average of 1.2 migraines a week with an intensity of 2.7 on the pain scale to 0.1 migraines a week with an intensity of 0.3 after two years. Practical improvements were significant, too. Patients who complied with treatment went from missing one day of work and two days of recreation a month to losing less than a third of a day of work, and no recreation days a month.
CPAP Compliance Problems
Of course, when it comes to CPAP treatment, the main problem is usually compliance, and this study is no exception. Initially, 30 out of the 41 subjects complied with treatment, about 73.2%. Five more turned out to not comply with treatment before the end of the study. Since researchers lost contact with seven subjects before the end of the study period, CPAP actually only gave results for 18 out of 34 subjects, or about 53%.
This is not unusual for CPAP, which may work for only about half of people (and sometimes less). For people who don’t respond well to CPAP, oral appliance therapy can help them get life-changing results like a reduction of migraines or possibly heart disease risk.
If you would like to learn more about the potential benefit of oral appliance therapy for you, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment at the TMJ Treatment and Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver.