Increased prevalence of sleep disorders in chronic headache: A case-control study

Elisa Sancisi, Sabina Cevoli, Luca Vignatelli, Marianna Nicodemo, Giulia Pierangeli, Stefano Zanigni, Daniela Grimaldi, Pietro Cortelli, Pasquale Montagna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. - The aim of our study was to investigate the prevalence of sleep disorders in chronic headache patients and to evaluate the role of psychiatric comorbidity in the association between chronic headache and sleep complaints. Background. - The prevalence of sleep disorders in chronic headache has been seldom investigated, although from the earliest description chronic headache has been associated with sleep disturbances. On the contrary, mood disorders are commonly associated with both sleep disturbances and chronic headache - each of which are, in turn, core features of mood disorders. Therefore, it may be important to discriminate between sleep problems that can be attributed to a comorbid psychiatric disorder, and those specifically associated with headache. Only a few studies investigating the association of chronic headache with sleep difficulties have also taken into account to consider the possible role of anxiety and depression. Patients and Methods. - A total of 105 consecutive patients with daily or nearly daily headache and 102 patients with episodic headache, matched by age, sex, and type of headache at onset, underwent a structured direct interview about their sleep habits and psychiatric diseases. Results. - In total, 80 out of 105 patients with chronic headache received a diagnosis of medication overuse headache, 21 patients were classified as chronic migraine and 4 as chronic tension-type headache without drug overuse. Patients. - Patients with chronic headache showed a high prevalence of insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and snoring with respect to controls (67.7% vs 39.2%, 36.2% vs 23.5%, and 48.6% vs 37.2%, respectively). Forty-five patients with chronic headache (42.9%) had psychiatric comorbidity (anxiety and/or depressive disorders), vs 27 episodic headache patients (26.5%). Multivariate analysis disclosed that low educational level, lower mean age at headache onset, and insomnia are independently associated with chronic headache. Conclusions. - Patients with chronic headache had a high prevalence of sleep complaints. Insomnia may thus represent an independent risk factor for headache chronification. Recognition of sleep disorders, alone or in association with depression or anxiety, may be useful in episodic headache patients to prevent chronification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1464-1472
Number of pages9
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • chronic headaches
  • insomnia
  • medication overuse headache
  • mood disorders
  • obstructive apnea
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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