If you have migraines, you know how disruptive they can be to your life and routines. If you need to be in a darkened room with a cold compress for 24 hours, how can you work, care for your family, or enjoy social activities? Scientists don’t completely understand the pathology underlying migraine, but many people have specific triggers that can bring about an episode.
At Apex Medical Center, our staff of expert providers want to help you manage your pain, but we would prefer to help you avoid pain if possible. By understanding your migraine triggers you may find that you have a little more control over your life.
Sleep is important to health in many ways. When you sleep, your body repairs and renews. Even your memories are consolidated when you sleep, so it comes as no surprise to find that changes to your sleep schedule can be a migraine trigger.
Getting too little or too much sleep can be problematic for people prone to migraine, and irregular sleep can also be a trigger. If your migraines seem to be related to sleep, one of the best things you can do is develop a sleep schedule, and practice good sleep hygiene.
Some of the things you can do include:
Roughly half of all migraines happen between 4 and 9 am, which means that people who have migraines are more likely to develop sleep disorders, such as insomnia, snoring, and bruxism, or teeth grinding. By working to establish a healthy sleep routine, you decrease your risk of these issues.
Many foods, beverages, and common additives are common migraine triggers. Caffeine and alcohol are well-known triggers. Other common triggers include foods that contain MSG, or histamine, cheese, other dairy products, artificial sweeteners, cured meats, and foods with strong smells.
The best way to find out if you have food-related triggers is to keep a detailed food diary for a few weeks, so you can look for patterns related to your diet and your migraines.
Another common, but often overlooked trigger, is dehydration. Much like sleep, your body needs water to function properly. Track your fluid intake for a while and make sure that you carry a bottle of water with you.
Stress is a trigger for about 50-70% of people with migraine. Even worrying about when your next migraine will be can be stressful enough to actually bring about an attack!
Some stress can’t be controlled. You can’t, for instance, control the various stressors you’re likely to encounter at work. However, learning some coping skills and managing the stress that is within your control can be helpful.
If you can limit your number of commitments, even if only temporarily, that can be helpful. Scheduling specific time for activities that you enjoy — such as reading or spending time with friends — can be helpful. Regular exercise can reduce stress as well. We may be able to suggest other methods of stress reduction such as biofeedback, massage, or meditation training for you.
Some environmental triggers can’t be controlled, like the weather. If low barometric pressure is a migraine trigger, there’s not much you can do about it. But, if bright sunshine is a trigger, you can wear dark sunglasses and a hat to protect yourself if you have to be out, or you can choose to stay inside when it’s brightest out.
Flashing lights are a very common trigger, so if you can avoid flickering fluorescent lights, you may be able to avoid a migraine. You may also want to avoid things like air fresheners and scented candles if environmental factors are triggers for you.
Women are much more likely to experience migraine than men, and about 75% of women who have migraine experience attacks around the time of their menstrual period, largely due to fluctuating hormones.
Some forms of birth control may help, and you may also find that making positive changes in your lifestyle decreases the number of attacks around your period.
If you have migraines, schedule an appointment to talk to one of our experts. We may be able to help you identify your triggers and better understand the cause of your attacks.