Are Sleep Difficulties Associated With Migraine Attributable to Anxiety and Depression?


  • Conflict of Interest: None

K.R. Merikangas, 35 Convent Dr. 1A201, MSC 3720, Bethesda, MD 20814. [Correction added after online publication 7-Jul-2008: Dr. Merikangas' name and affiliation have been updated.]


Objective.— To examine whether sleep complaints reported by migraineurs can be attributed to comorbid anxiety and/or depression.

Background.— A consistent association between migraine and sleep complaints has been reported in community and clinical studies. However, anxiety and depression are often comorbid with migraine. Thus, it may be possible that the increased prevalence of sleep problems in migraineurs is attributable to comorbid anxiety and depression. To our knowledge, no previous studies have demonstrated that the associations are not solely attributed to comorbid anxiety and depression.

Design and Methods.— Controlled family study of anxiety disorders and substance use disorders in a community in New Haven County, CT. The sample included 221 probands (41 migraineurs) and their 261 directly interviewed first-degree relatives (39 migrainuers), including parents, siblings, and offspring over age 18. A lifetime history of migraine was obtained using the Diagnostic Interview for Headache Syndromes. A lifetime history of psychiatric disorders was obtained using the semi-structured Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia which was modified to incorporate Diagnostic and Statistical Manual diagnostic criteria. Several sleep items on current and lifetime sleep complaints were included as a subset of the interview.

Results.— There was a significant association between migraine and the number of sleep problems as well as several specific sleep symptoms among probands and their adult relatives. Adults with migraine reported having significantly more lifetime sleep problems (OR [CI] = 2.3 [1.1-4.6]), and more current sleep difficulties, specifically, inadequate sleep (2.5 [1.2-5.0]), difficulty falling asleep (3.0 [1.5-6.3]), and persistent nightmares of childhood onset (4.3 [1.8-9.9]) than those without migraine. The associations between sleep problems and migraine persisted after controlling for both lifetime and current anxiety and mood disorders.

Conclusions.— The association between sleep problems and migraine that is not solely explained by comorbid anxiety disorders or depression suggests that sleep problems should be evaluated among people with migraine.