The sleep problems of children, and the frequent headaches that they suffer from are connected to each other, according to the Mayo Clinic researchers. The pediatric neurologist Kenneth Mack led the research study which found that over two-thirds of the children studied who suffer from chronic daily headache also experience sleep disturbance, especially delay in sleep onset, and that of the children with episodic headaches, one-fifth had sleep problems.
Dr Mack said that the researchers had undertaken this study to scientifically study their observation in the clinic that many children suffer from both headaches and sleep problems. The study involved a retrospective chart review of 100 children aged between 6 to 17 years with chronic daily headache - headache present 15 or more days a month for three months or more, and 100 children in the same age category with episodic headache - headache that occurs with less frequency than chronic daily headache.
In addition to sleep onset delay, sleep problems found in children studied included awakening during the night or too early in the morning, or not feeling refreshed after sleep. Dr Mack further said that sleep problems and headaches fed each other, and that only when sleep problems were brought under control either with medication or non-medication treatment, could the problem of headaches be brought under control. The Mayo Clinic's Lenora Lehwald is of the view that one step in stopping headaches was by inculcating good sleep hygiene in children.
The study also found that age is one factor that puts children at a risk for headache. Teenagers have the highest level of risk which may be partly due to a higher stress level for teens than for younger children. It was also noted that a typical teen gets less than the 9.5 hours of sleep per night that is needed. Family history of headache, time of the year, and stress levels also appear to impact headache risk, say the researchers.
The study further revealed that 10% to 20% of children have episodic headache. Chronic daily headache occurs in up to 4% of girls and up to 2% of boys. The findings will be presented at the 24th Annual Conference on Sleep Disorders in Infancy and Childhood in Rancho Mirage, California.