How Sex and Sleep Can Help Your Migraines

Woman with head ache in bed

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If you suffer from migraines, you might already be receiving treatment by an internal medicine specialist or you may have gone to a headache clinic.

The World Health Organization states that 1 out of every 7 adults in the world is impacted by migraines. According to The Migraine Research Foundation, 85% of chronic migraine sufferers are women. Dealing with the impact of migraines is clearly a medical challenge for half of our human population.

Because migraines remain somewhat mysterious and can cause terrible pain for sufferers (sometimes pain can last for days at a time), you might still be wondering if there are any other treatments options that you can try. The good news is that there are surprising benefits related to sex and sleep.

Scientific research has shown that you can mitigate the occurrences and intensity of migraines by having more sex and keeping a consistent and regular sleep routine.

This article explains migraines, what causes them, and how more sex and better sleep can alleviate your migraine symptoms.

What Are Migraines?

Migraine headaches still aren’t entirely understood. A migraine manifests as a throbbing headache that often occurs on one side of the head. Debilitating and extremely painful, migraines can result in vomiting and unbearable pain that interferes with your everyday activities.

A migraine is a specific type of headache or neurological disorder. Unfortunately, medical professionals and headache researchers haven’t pinned down one exact cause. Nor have they been able to isolate a specific trigger for each individual.

According to The Cleveland Clinic, headaches occur when pain signals are sent to the brain. This, in turn, leads to an inflammatory response, resulting in a headache.

What Triggers a Migraine?

A host of triggers can set off a migraine including:

  • Menstruation and hormonal fluctuations
  • Sensitivities to various foods (especially sensitivity to wine, cheese, and chocolate)
  • Barometric pressure changes
  • Medications
  • Food additives
  • Stress
  • Sensory stimuli (bright lights, strong smells, and loud sounds)
  • Consuming too much caffeine

This type of headache tends to run in families. But because there is no specific cause and the triggers vary widely, people who get migraines—even if they’re already being treated—are often clamoring for remedies to take away their headache pain.

Migraine Treatment

Most doctors prescribe pharmaceutical remedies in the form of medication and lifestyle changes for the treatment of migraines. Although many have benefited from the use of acupuncture and biofeedback, not everyone can go to an integrative medicine facility. Some insurance policies won’t cover it.

In the area of lifestyle changes, doctors often recommend patients exercise more and focus on mental health as it relates to stress, anxiety, and depression. Migraines and mental health is connected. In fact, stress can be both a cause and effect of a migraine’s impairments.

More and more, doctors are adding mindful-based techniques to their repertoire. That’s because the benefits of meditation and yoga which use mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques have been scientifically studied and have shown great promise in the treatment of migraines.

In addition to the medication and lifestyle changes mentioned above, it’s encouraging to know you can be proactive in your own treatment. Consider the benefits related to sex and sleep discussed below.

How Sex Can Help Your Migraines

Although migraine sufferers might not consider sex a therapeutic tool, it can be. While migraines impair functioning and sometimes cause extreme discomfort that make the idea of sexual activity far from attractive, many find relief from migraine pain by having sex.

Endorphins Released During Sex Alleviate Pain

What makes sexual intercourse and other sexual activities a welcome relief for these extreme headache sufferers? During arousal and orgasm, endorphins increase. Endorphins are peptides that act on the brain’s opiate receptors. With increased feelings of pleasure, there is a reduction in perceptions of pain.

Perhaps we pay less attention to the discomforting signals of our headache when distracted by lovemaking. Or more likely, the opioid-acting endorphins rapidly provide pain relief. So, we no longer experience pain or are in the throes of an attack.

A published research study found that a majority of people having migraine attacks felt better after sexual activities. Specifically, 60% of migraine sufferers reported an improvement and 70% reported moderate to complete relief from their migraines.


Keep in mind, you might want to skip the glass of red wine before amorous activities as red wine could be a possible trigger. Also, note that sometimes pressure on the neck and physical activity in bed could result in a rise in tension. Some even report sex itself causes headaches.

Since sex is a natural way to help your migraines, consider increasing your sexual activity. Indulging in this pleasant pastime could be a new tool in your arsenal to fend off migraine attacks.

How Sleep Can Help Your Migraines

Any changes in your wake-sleep pattern can lead to migraines. That includes too much sleep and too little sleep. The disruption is implicated in increasing the occurrence of migraines.

Too Much Sleep

People can get frequent migraines, especially weekend attacks after sleeping extra hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Sleep specialists encourage people with migraines to wake at the same time on both weekdays and weekends. Although it seems like it’s helpful to catch up on sleep on your days off, research from the journal, Current Biology, shows that your body doesn’t actually catch up on its sleep debt.

Getting your recommended number of hours of sleep (between 7 and 9 hours per night) and maintaining a regular and consistent sleep pattern can help stave off migraine occurrences.

Too Little Sleep

According to research in The Journal of Headache and Pain, a lack of sleep is often to blame for terrible migraines. A lack of sleep often precedes the onset of a migraine. Research shows acute sleep deprivation can commonly trigger migraines.

Sometimes people wear their reduced hours of sleep as a badge of honor to show that they’re working hard and putting in a valiant effort at work or school. But chronic sleep deprivation is dangerous. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase your risk of:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Memory impairment

Other maladaptive conditions can occur as a result of sleep deprivation too. And, not getting enough sleep can also result in a massive migraine.

Not only does sleeping too few hours contribute to migraines, but it also affects the severity of the migraine.

Combining chronic sleep deprivation with lots of stress can lead to a major headache. In fact, a scientific study shows just that: stress and sleep duration predict headache severity in chronic headache sufferers.

A Word From Verywell

Chronic migraine sufferers should turn to trusted headache experts in their community for advice and treatment. Lifestyle changes have proven to be productive in migraine treatment in study after study. Based on new research, those with migraines might want to ward off migraine pain and reoccurrences by expanding their sexual activities and setting up a consistent and healthy sleep schedule.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Cleveland Clinic. Migraine Headaches.

  2. Hambach A, Evers S, Summ O, Husstedt IW, Frese A. The impact of sexual activity on idiopathic headaches: an observational studyCephalalgia. 2013;33(6):384-389. doi:10.1177/0333102413476374

  3. Depner et al. Ad libitum Weekend Recovery Sleep Fails to Prevent Metabolic Dysregulation during a Repeating Pattern of Insufficient Sleep and Weekend Recovery Sleep. Current Biology. 2019;29(6): 957–967.

  4. Negro A et al. Acute sleep deprivation enhances susceptibility to the migraine substrate cortical spreading depolarization. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2020;21(86).

  5. Houle TT, Butschek RA, Turner DP, Smitherman TA, Rains JC, Penzien DB. Stress and sleep duration predict headache severity in chronic headache sufferersPain. 2012;153(12):2432-2440. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2012.08.014

By Barbara Field
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.