I know I’m going to be accused again of suggesting that another celebrity or politician has obstructive sleep apnea, but here I go anyway:
An article in the New York Times ran an article about Michelle Bachmann’s ability to run our country if she suffers from chronic migraines. This question seems to be a moot point, since she seems to be doing a good job as a legislator for her home state of Minnesota. I’m sure various other political candidates and current leaders all have various health issues that are just as severe than migraines, if not worse.
The reasons for even bringing up this story is to present my observation that almost everyone that I see who has a history of chronic migraines has small upper airway anatomy, small jaws and dental crowding. Ms. Bachmann may or may not have sleep apnea, but it’s likely that she has upper airway resistance syndrome. This is a condition where you have multiple breathing pauses every hour during sleep, but not severe or long enough to be called an apnea, hypopnea, or RERA. Typically, they’ll show up as spontaneous arousals. Or not even scored at all on a sleep study.
These events don’t lead to low oxygen levels, but do result in severe sleep fragmentation and lack of deep, efficient sleep. This can cause a physiologic state of stress, leading to generalized muscle tension, headaches, TMJ, and various other health ailments. It also causes your nervous system to become overly sensitive. A migraine is essentially an exaggerated nervous system response to poor sleep.
Most migraineurs complains of poor-qualtiy, unrefreshing sleep, cold hands or feet, an inability to sleep on their backs, and a parent that snores heavily. Later on, as they gain weight, migraines will typically fade away slowly, and the typical features of obstructive sleep apnea will present. However, some women (and some men) will persist in having migraines until their 60s or 70s.
Notice the classic features of a migraine: headache, nausea, sensitivity of the senses (light, sound, smell, taste). Typically, it resolves by sleeping. These are also very similar to symptoms of a bad hangover. Severe deep sleep deprivation is known to cause symptoms that are very similar to a hangover, including brain-fog.
As Ms. Bachmann approaches her 60s and past the menopausal years, her migraines will probably subside. Unfortunately, her risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea will increase. But she’ll be in good company. A significant number of her fellow politicians already have obstructive sleep apnea (mostly undiagnosed).