Marleen has suffered from migraine for around 18 years, and describes what it’s like to live with the condition.
"I have chronic migraine, so have a headache most days. I get an intense pain on one side of my head, this can be throbbing or very diffuse but intense pain, or the feeling that knives are being wedged into my brain. I am often nauseous but rarely vomit. I feel utterly exhausted when I am going to get a migraine, or for days after I've had one."
She has learned how to adapt her life to avoid some of the things that trigger migraine. She avoids coffee and alcohol, she has to avoid getting too hungry and thirsty, and she can't do sports or anything too active in the mornings. Lack of sleep is also a trigger, something that is particularly difficult to manage as, like many people with migraine, Marleen suffers from insomnia.
Always very active, Marleen used to be a competitive swimmer. When swimming began to give her awful migraines she switched to running, which also gives her migraines but she refuses to give up on it:
“Without sports I would feel much more anxious, much more unhealthy, and much more unhappy!”
Marleen took part in the Virtual London Marathon in October 2020, raising a fantastic £1,315 for vital research. She is now training for the 2021 London Marathon, and hopes to raise even more to support research into headache and other brain conditions.
"I love taking up challenges and trying new things so it was a delight and a distraction to train and fundraise for Brain Research UK last year. I am very much looking forward to the marathon this year and I hope people will continue to support this cause!"
Migraine is one of the most common neurological conditions, affecting around one in seven of us. It is a complex and disabling disorder with a variety of symptoms, usually featuring a severe headache.
Like Marleen, many people with migraine suffer from insomnia. Lack of sleep can, in turn, trigger a migraine, giving rise to a vicious cycle of migraine and insomnia. Treating the insomnia can break this cycle, and one of the best treatments is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which teaches people to change their sleep behaviour and anxieties around sleep loss.
In 2020 we awarded funding to Dr Megan Crawford of the University of Strathclyde Sleep Research Unit to support her work on insomnia in migraine. She is evaluating a digital form of CBT for insomnia. Read more.