About a quarter of all migraine sufferers also have sleep apnea. Since this is higher than the frequency of migraines in the general population, researchers have postulated that people with migraines might benefit from sleep apnea treatment. One study recently showed that CPAP treatment helped migraine sufferers, subject, of course, to the typical limitations of CPAP treatment.
CPAP Reduces Migraines
In order to determine the effect of CPAP treatment on migraines, researchers screened 314 potential participants who had been diagnosed with migraines and either had an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 15 or greater, or 5 or greater with common sleep apnea symptoms, such as daytime sleepiness, nonrefreshing sleep, sleep fragmentation, decreased concentration, memory loss, nocturia, or morning headaches. These people were not taking other treatments. They were screened with an in-hospital polysomnogram and 41 were selected for the study. The mean AHI was about 27. One had chronic migraine, 21 had migraine with aura, and 19 had migraine without aura.
For patients who complied with CPAP treatment, people had significant improvement in their migraines. They went from an average of 1.2 migraines a week before treatment to 0.1 migraines a week after two years of treatment. The length of migraines dropped from 22 hours to just three hours. And intensity of migraines dropped from 2.7 to 0.3 on their scale. People went from losing at least one day of work a and two days of recreation a month to losing less than a third of a day of work and no days of recreation a month.
CPAP Compliance Problems
Initially, about 73.2% of participants complied with CPAP, 30 out of the 41 subjects. Of these 30, another two turned out to not accept CPAP long-term, and three of the subjects were noncompliant with CPAP. In other words, CPAP really only worked for about 25 out of 41 subjects. Since 7 of the subjects were inaccessible, and we don’t know what their status was at one year, we actually have 18 out of 34 patients for whom CPAP was actually a functional treatment (53%).
This is consistent with other research about CPAP. Although it can be a very good treatment for many sleep apnea sufferers, only about half (or sometimes less) of people actually benefit from its effects.
This is what makes oral appliance therapy an important treatment option–it can help many of the people who are unable to comply with CPAP.
If you want to learn more about sleep apnea treatments that may help with your sleep apnea, please call 619-299-5925 for an appointment with San Diego sleep dentist Dr. Rod Strober.