For those of you who have never had one, a migraine is a headache times 10, 100 or more. It occurs on the side of the head, the temple, with an intense, throbbing pain often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound. It is a vascular disorder, systemic in nature, causing the blood vessels in your head to swell.
When I was a kid, I used to hate people telling me to just relax and they’d get better. I knew that slowing down or taking it easy would not make them vanish. Since mine have been getting worse over the years, I had a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), where pulses of radio wave energy are sent through your brain to provide pictures of your head. The test doesn’t hurt, but you get to hear a jack-hammer for about half an hour, and if you are claustrophobic you may have a problem since your top half is placed inside a small machine. Cat scans (CT scans) can also be done, but I chose the MRI to avoid radiation.
Since my results were normal (I guess the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz would be envious), my migraines are due to genetics. (My mother had them and so does my sister.) Women are much more likely to get them as well as depression. A recent study at Women’s Hospital in Boston says that women who get migraines are 40 % more likely to get depression. The study doesn’t show cause and effect. It just notes that there’s a specific common biological mechanism linking both.
And to complicate matters, insomnia can precede or co-occur with depression. Moreover, any “abnormalities of sleep neurophysiology” have been reported, on average, in more than 90 % of people with depression says the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. For some reason the rate of sleep abnormalities is even higher in women. (Aren’t we lucky?)
At present, there are no answers why the three are linked, merely hypotheses, but I suppose we’ll be hearing more in the future, so this post is just a brief overview of research to come. Since my mother had all three, as do I, I’ll try to keep abreast of the findings. (And BTW, thanks Mom!)