Migraine Triggers - Common Migraine Triggers

Migraine Triggers

If you get migraines, we recommend that you get to know the common triggers for migraine attacks and consider all of them suspect until they can be reliably ruled out after tracking triggers in your migraine journal.
 

Common Migraine Triggers

Not everyone experiences the same symptoms or the same triggers. You may find that a combination of factors triggers an attack. 

common migraine triggers infographic

Weather & the Environment

The environment can play a factor in your migraines: air pressure fluctuations, high humidity, seasonal changes, rapid weather changes, loud noises, glare and flickering lights are all possible triggers. While you can’t control the weather, knowing your triggers gives you some ability to predict the likelihood of a migraine in time to take prophylactic treatments and take other precautions such as wearing high quality polarized & UV400 protected sunglasses to reduce the effect of glare, flickering lights and harmful UVA & UVB radiation.

Blue Light - Computer & Mobile Phone Screen Time 

Blue light exposure for more than 2 hours per day can cause eyestrain. Eyestrain is a migraine trigger for many sufferers. At night, blue light throws of your circadian rhythm, your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle causing sleeping problems, another major migraine trigger.
Poor ergonomics can also cause muscle strain in the neck and shoulders, which may also be a factor in migraines. To protect yourself, use the 20/20/20 rule:

Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

For more information on the dangers of blue light, click here.

Blue light blocking glasses and anti-glare screen covers offer ongoing protection

20-20-20-avoid-eye-strain

Sleep

Sleep is the Goldilocks of trigger factors: it has to be just right - too much or too little, and you may end up with a migraine. Depending on the sufferer, migraines can be triggered by staying up too late, going to bed to early, sleeping in too late, getting up too early, dozing off in the mornings, or the result of consecutive late nights.

Stress

Research has shown strong linkage between migraine and stress. Anxiety, excitement, shock, depression and any form of pressure may trigger a migraine attack. Many migraine sufferers report migraine attacks begin at times of rest such as vacation or weekends just as their body lets its guard down. These ‘weekend headaches’ may also be the result of changes in routine, such as sleep/wake times, meal times, caffeine consumption. Even sleeping in on a day off may be a trigger - for the migraineur, consistency is king.

Caffeine

Caffeine may relieve some of the pain and throbbing for some migraine sufferers, but be a trigger for others. Too much caffeine is likely to be a trigger, so keep it under 4 or 5 cups of coffee, tea, or cola per day. Some sufferers find that if their first cup is off by even an hour a migraine attack can be triggered.

Food

Triggers related to food are identified in about 10% of migraineurs. Migraines may be triggered by a food, or the migraine may trigger cravings for a particular food.
Missing meals can trigger migraines, eating an unbalanced meal such as sugary snacks can as well. We recommend eating small, healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables regularly through the day to help regulate attacks.
Foods containing certain chemical additives may also be triggers. Keep track of aspartame (diet colas, etc.), nitrates (deli meats), and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Alcohol and soft cheeses contain chemical like tyramine that may also trigger migraines.

Hormonal Changes 

Menstruation and menopause can have an effect on your migraines, possibly triggering attacks. Many women can trace their migraines back to puberty and link them with their period. Menopause can be a time of increased migraine attacks.   

Your Migraine Journal

Your detailed migraine journal is your best tool in treating your migraines. Keep in mind that migraine triggers can be a factor up to 48 hours prior to an attack. Tracking certain information may help you uncover patterns of potential triggers and combination triggers.
We recommend recording:
  • Wake/Sleep Times
  • Activities (work, housework, played video games, watched TV)
  • Where you were
  • What you ate and drank
  • Exercise
  • Your mood and energy levels
  • Weather
  • Menstrual Cycle
  • Medications
  • Major life changes
  • Migraine Attacks:
  • Symptoms
  • Severity
  • Pain location/type/level
Identifying your triggers will allow you to avoid many of them in the future. Set goals for yourself and be realistic. You should aim to reduce the severity and/or frequency of attacks, but understand that it is not always possible to eliminate them completely.
 
For a Migraine Journal Template, click here.