Thanks to the use of innovative apps, it will be possible to better prevent when a migraine attack is imminent. This is revealed by a study published in “Neurology,” the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Migraine is often underdiagnosed and untreated, and even when treated, it can be challenging to address it early enough and find strategies to prevent attacks. The new study explores ways to more accurately predict when a migraine will occur through the use of apps monitoring sleep, energy, emotions, and stress.

The study found that perceived poor sleep quality and lower-than-normal sleep quality the night before were both associated with an increased risk of a migraine attack the next morning. Lower-than-normal energy levels the day before were also associated with headaches the next morning. These factors did not lead to an increased risk of migraines in the afternoon or evening. The only predictors of an afternoon or evening headache were an increase in stress levels or higher-than-average energy levels the day before.

“These different patterns of predictors for morning and next-day headaches highlight the role of circadian rhythms in migraines,” said study author Kathleen R. Merikangas, PhD, of the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. “The results could provide us with insights into the underlying processes of migraines and help improve treatment and prevention.”

Study Details: The study involved 477 participants aged 7 to 84, including 291 women. Using a mobile app, participants were asked to assess mood, energy, stress, and headaches four times a day for two weeks. They also evaluated their sleep quality once a day and wore sleep and activity monitors. Nearly half of the participants had a history of migraines, and 59 percent had at least one morning headache during the study. People with perceived worse sleep quality had an average 22 percent higher probability of having a headache the next morning. A decrease in self-reported usual sleep quality was also associated with an 18 percent increase in the likelihood of a morning headache. Similarly, a decrease in the usual energy level the day before was associated with a 16 percent higher probability of a morning headache. On the contrary, average levels of stress and substantially higher-than-usual energy levels the day before were associated with a 17 percent increase in the likelihood of headaches in the afternoon or evening.

Additional Insights: After considering sleep, energy, and stress, neither anxious nor depressed mood were associated with headaches. “Surprisingly, we found no link between a person’s anxiety and depression symptoms and the likelihood of having a migraine attack the next day,” said Merikangas. “Perhaps the most interesting thing is that headaches were associated with self-reported sleep quality rather than actual sleep pattern measurements. This highlights the importance of perceived physical and emotional states in the underlying causes of migraines.” “Our study demonstrates the importance of monitoring sleep changes as a predictive factor for headaches,” said study author Tarannum M. Lateef, MD, of Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC. “The use of apps that monitor sleep and other health issues, real-time behavioral and emotional states can provide valuable information that can help manage migraines.”

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