10 Common Migraine Triggers to Watch Out for

Migraine Triggers to Watch Out for
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If you’ve ever endured the throbbing, pounding pain of a migraine, you would probably do just about anything to get it to stop.

Stopping a migraine once it starts is certainly important, but preventing one from occurring in the first place is even better and will save you a lot of pain in the end.

The good news is that there are some migraine triggers somewhat within your control, meaning that when those triggers are avoided (or minimized), you can reduce the frequency of your migraines.

Altering Sleep Habits

Getting too little sleep, or too much sleep can trigger a migraine. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. In addition, work on getting seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. 

Lastly, to help prevent insomnia and maximize a healthy night's sleep, limit the amount of caffeine and exposure to light you get before bed, including television, phone, and computer use.

Coping Poorly With Stress

Stress and anxiety can be a major trigger for migraines. They can also make an already painful migraine worse. Learn how to reduce stress through relaxation exercises, physical activity, journaling, or talking out your problems.

Even if you’re someone who is always on the go, try to take time out to do something you truly enjoy. You may also want to consider cutting back on a jammed-packed schedule.

Overusing Pain Medications

Regular use of pain medication, even over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen, can cause migraines to increase in frequency and intensity. This is known as a rebound headache or medication overuse headache. Be sure you are limiting your use of these your headache-easing medicines to no more than two times weekly. If you are needing to use more, talk with your doctor. You may benefit from a daily migraine preventive medication.

Experiencing Hormone Fluctuations

Hormones that contribute to a woman’s menstrual cycle can also trigger migraines. As a result, certain hormone therapies may result in more frequent migraines. If you are sensitive to hormones, discuss your birth control options with your doctor.

A birth control pill that is low in hormones, or a non-hormone birth control option, may work better for you. In addition, using birth control pills that limit monthly hormone fluctuations may also be beneficial.

Being Exposed to Certain Smells

Scents can trigger migraines in some individuals who are sensitive to smell. Common scent triggers include flowers, perfume, cleaning products, pain, and dust. Inhaling cigarette smoke, whether you are smoking yourself or are exposed to second-hand smoke, can also cause a migraine.

If a particular scent may be triggering your migraines, it's best to avoid it or find a strategy that minimizes it significantly (for example, leaving a window open).

Consuming Food Additives

Food additives, such as MSG and nitrates, are a common migraine trigger. MSG is sometimes found in certain kinds of fast food, ramen noodles, and canned soups and vegetables. Nitrates are typically in processed or cured meats, like cold cuts, hot dogs, and bacon.

Aspartame, a sugar substitute, may also trigger migraines in some individuals, as can tyramine, which is often found in pickled foods, aged cheeses, and foods containing yeast.

Keeping a food diary may help you best identify your food triggers.

Being Exposed to Bright Lights

While sensitivity to light is a common migraine symptom, being exposed to a sudden, bright light like bright sunlight or fluorescent light, can actually trigger a migraine. It’s also important to be mindful of glares, such as those on your computer screen, or reflected sunlight that can appear suddenly.

If you know that your migraines are triggered by bright light, it's sensible to wear sunglasses and a hat when out in the sun or in a room with a bright light.

Skipping Meals

Fasting or missing a meal can easily bring on a migraine. This is thought to be a result of low blood sugar, although the precise cause is not known. So take care of your body by eating regular meals and/or nutritious snacks.

Experiencing Mood Changes

Research suggests a link, albeit a complex one, between migraines and psychiatric conditions, like depression. In the end, treating your mood will not only help you feel better but may also help your migraines. Please speak with your doctor if you are concerned about your mood or behavior lately.

Altering Your Caffeine Intake

Your daily cup of joe might have turned into three cups of joe, which can worsen your migraine disorder. Likewise, missing your morning cup of joe can also precipitate a caffeine-withdrawal headache. Moderating your caffeine intake will likely help your migraines in the long-term.

A Word From Verywell

Avoiding your triggers (the best that you can) is one way to take some control over your migraine health. If you are having a hard time identifying your triggers, try keeping a detailed diary of your daily routine, including meals, drinks, sleep patterns, and medications. Then, share it with your doctor—something unexpected might pop up.


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