Migraine is one of the most common headache disorders, characterized by intense, throbbing, or pulsatile sensations on one or both sides of the head. Migraine attacks can last for hours or even days. In some cases, the pain can be so severe that it inhibits your capability to go about with your daily activities. Most people who experience such migraines can attest to how big an inconvenience these headaches are. Though migraine causes aren't fully understood, there are several common migraine triggers that play a role in the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. This article looks at four triggers and steps you can take to limit their effects.
Disruption in sleep pattern
Research has long established a link between sleep disturbances and migraines. For one, sleep deprivation has also been shown to increase the severity and frequency of migraines. A study by the journal Headache found that patients with chronic migraines had abnormally low levels of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that’s secreted by the pineal gland in your brain. It's responsible for making you feel sleepy and helps you fall asleep.
Your body releases melatonin at night when you are sleeping. If you are not getting adequate sleep, your body is probably not producing enough melatonin, i.e., increasing the chances of getting migraines.
- Set a schedule for when you go to bed and wake up. Stick to this routine as much as possible to realign your body’s circadian rhythm functions.
- Stay away from caffeine and alcohol late in the day. These stimulate your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.
- Create a nighttime routine that helps you relax before sleep (for example, reading a book or listening to music). Make sure to turn off the TV and other screens at least an hour before bedtime.
- Take a melatonin supplement. Since melatonin may alter brain chemistry, you should check with your general practitioner before use.
Perhaps the biggest culprit of all, stress is a major trigger for almost 80% of people who experience migraine episodes. On top of daily life stress, add the perpetual worry of when the next attack will strike, and you have the recipe for chronic migraines. Particular what to watch out for is the “let-down” effect—a pattern in which people experience a flare-up of a chronic condition right after a stressful event. In this case, a migraine episode.
When under a high-stress situation, our body responds by releasing more cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones), which make us more mentally agile and physically capable of handling stress. Once the stress is over, those hormone levels go down. However, there are other chemicals left over from the stress response, which tends to produce inflammation, and can trigger a migraine.
To avoid the "let down" effect, establish a cool-down period, just like you would do after exercising. Wondering where to start? Deep breathing is a great relaxation technique as it can give your mind and body a rest while making you more aware of how you are feeling. Or a short burst of exercise to trigger a positive immune-system response. That being said, it’s important to find a de-stressing technique that works for you
Bright lights, loud sounds and strong smells can trigger migraines in some people. Everyone has some level of light sensitivity—think of going from a dark room out into a bright sunny day. However, some people find that even normal light causes pain or discomfort. For such people, bright lights may even trigger a migraine. On the other hand, some odours may activate certain nerve receptors in the nose triggering a migraine attack or make worse one that already started.
These include perfume, cigarette smoke, paint thinner, cleaning products or car exhausts. However, the specific odours that may lead to migraine can vary among individuals. These scents are also more likely to induce a migraine if you are exposed for a prolonged period of time or if you are in an enclosed space.
- Wear sunglasses with a FL-41 filter when going outside to reduce visual stress. Research shows that FL-41 glasses can help relieve painful light sensitivity and reduce migraine attacks by blocking the blue wavelengths of light.
- Avoid any strong odours you suspect trigger your migraines. For example, if you discover that perfume is one of your migraine triggers, consider discussing a perfume-free space at work or home.
Hormonal fluctuations in women
This is one of the main contributing factors as to why more women than men get migraines. Women often notice a relationship between migraine headaches and hormonal changes. Having estrogen as well as progesterone levels that dip or change before or during menstrual periods, pregnancy and menopause can make migraine severity or frequency worse.
For example, many women with migraines report an increase in episodes before or during their periods. These are called “menstrual migraines.”The rapid rise in estrogen during pregnancy often alleviates the occurrence of migraines, eliminating them entirely in some cases. However, after delivery, the abrupt decrease in estrogen levels — along with stress and sleep deprivation — might trigger migraine headaches again.
Though fluctuating hormone levels can influence migraine patterns, you're not completely at the mercy of your hormones. Medication- your doctor can prescribe different medications to relieve the pain from the headache and alleviate other symptoms like nausea or vomiting. Check with your doctor before using any hormone supplements, as they are often not regulated and may have ingredients that are not safe.
What Other Steps Can You Take?
Being aware and avoiding your migraine triggers is key to improving your quality of life. One way to help determine what are the most common migraine triggers for you is to keep a migraine diary (record of the frequency, duration, severity and triggers). It’s advised to talk to your doctor before taking any migraine medication. Also, note that overuse of such drugs can aggravate your symptoms. One more thing you can try: Botox!
The “ king of anti-ageing” has been FDA and MHRA approved for treating chronic migraines for more than a decade. Interested in learning how Botox can help you cut your migraine days by more than 50%? Talk to one of our professional staff today.