Migraine refers to a severe headache that usually occurs in one area of the head and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, and/or sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can be very painful and debilitating though regular medication can help reduce the severity and frequency of their occurrence. Experts maintain that in order to keep away from migraine attacks, one not just needs medication, but also lifestyle modifications which will prevent their onset. Therefore, here is a compilation of migraine triggers which all individuals prone to this condition should stay away from.


Everyone experiences stress. However, if it persists for a longer period, the body starts to break down and causes illnesses, such as migraines. A dramatic change in physical and psychological stress levels can trigger migraine. Anxiety, shock, excitement or any form of stress can result in a migraine attack. A lot of people even report suffering migraine, once their stress reduces. One of the best things to do is to learn and identify stress, and avoid it in all circumstances. It is best to practice relaxation and stress reduction techniques to cope with stress and anxiety.



Odd And Pungent Smells

An increased sensitivity to smells – including perfumes and colognes – can cause a painful migraine headache. A more recent study conducted on migraine triggers in men listed perfumes as the second most common triggers of migraine after stress. A strong fragrance is found to make a pre-existing headache worse. This phenomenon is called “osmophobia”. Some of the most frequent offenders include cigarette smoke, cleaning products, food smells, and scents.



Bright Lights

Exposure to flickering lights or sitting in front computer screens for long time can trigger a migraine. Even a brief exposure to sunlight can cause a migraine headache in some cases. Also, in case a person is already sleep deprived or dehydrated or is suffering from low blood pressure, bright light can act as a secondary form of migraine. The best advice is to wear a hat and a sunglass while stepping out in the sunlight. Or, one should also avoid going to sunny places and should get more sleep.




Sometimes, doctors can link migraine attacks with alcohol consumption. It is one of the most commonly reported migraine triggers that often bring on the attack within an hour of consumption. In a Brazilian study, it was reported that in one-third of migraine patients, the headache is triggered by alcohol intake. The best advice for migraineurs is, therefore, to drink alcohol in moderation and avoid any alcoholic beverage that has triggered a migraine attack in the past. Alcohol containing sulfites or other impurities is extremely bad for migraine sufferers.




Caffeine can be a migraine trigger as too much of the substance can result in “caffeine rebound”. Typically, withdrawal from caffeine is what causes a painful headache. When a person consumes huge amount of caffeine throughout the day, a sudden break or withdrawal can start a migraine. The physical side effects related to caffeine rebound are severe; however, only a few people suffer from caffeine rebound. Most migraine sufferers usually consume approximately 200 mg. every day, which triggers an attack.



Lack Of Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can occasionally trigger a pulsating headache, generally on one side of the head. Insufficient sleep or sleep disturbances when accompanied by nausea, noise, or smells can bring on an acute migraine attack. Individuals who do not get a six hour good night sleep have severe headaches than the ones who sleep for longer. On the other hand, getting too much sleep can also be a trigger for an acute migraine attack. It is very important to try and wake, sleep, and eat at set times daily. Even a jet lag or changes in the work patterns can induce a migraine attack.



Noise Exposure

A lot of people who suffer from migraines know that noise exposure can sometimes be one of the culprits. Loud or high-pitched noise impairs cognitive functions. Approximately three quarters of individuals who complaint about migraine attacks link it to noise sensitivity. All those who already have a headache, noise exposure can make it even worse. The best advice for migraine sufferers is to keep a pair of ear plugs handy so that they can steer clear of offensive sounds. And in case loud noise triggers a throbbing headache, you should find yourself a dark, peaceful corner to lie down and ease the pain.



Some Medications

A variety of medications – some of which you may be taking for treating other conditions – can cause or aggravate a migraine. Overuse of certain medications, such as birth control pills, has often been associated with onset of migraine attack. There are many other medicines that can result in a migraine rebound, including aspirin, ibuprofen, codeine, acetaminophen, and hydrocodone. If you ever suspect a medicine related headache, consult your doctor about switching to a different medication.



Hunger Or Dehydration

Hunger headaches are common amongst the individuals who diet or skip meals frequently. Though it remains unclear as why it happens, but most studies link hunger headaches with dropping blood glucose levels. Not just hunger, even dehydration has been associated with migraines. Insufficient water intake or water deprivation can trigger an intense headache. So, it is necessary to eat regular meals and consume sufficient water all the time.



Weather Changes

Another common migraine trigger is changes in weather. Extremes of weather, too much cold or too much heat and even changes in atmospheric pressure are linked with onset of migraine. A study conducted on women of the American Midwest found that thunderstorms accompanied by lightning can cause a migraine headache. A lot of doctors are of the view that a medicine should be taken well in advance of a weather change, so as to avoid any sort of headache.




Smoking is a common migraine trigger – for smokers as well the people around them. It primarily increases the level of carbon monoxide in a person’s blood, thereby provoking a headache. In fact nicotine has an extremely toxic effect on the brain as it constricts the blood vessels in the body, which again result in a headache. It is, therefore, important to avoid places where smoking is common. This way, migraines can also be prevented.




Hormonal shifts play a significant role in causing a pulsating headache and other symptoms of migraines. One study found that around half the women who had migraine attacks experienced them when they were on their periods, which is a regularly occurring time of hormonal flux. Reportedly, 5 million women suffer a hormone headache every month. Migraines that are tied to menstruation often go away during pregnancy.



Physical Activities

Headaches triggered by exercises occur during or after a session of strenuous workout. Some of the exercises which are linked with an onset of migraine are swimming, running, tennis, weightlifting, and rowing. Approximately, 38% individuals experience a migraine attack triggered by exercises at some point of time. Low-intensity workouts should be done over high-intensity workouts by individuals who suffer from an exercise headache.



Sensitive Brain Cells

Despite a number of reasons responsible for triggering a migraine, scientists still don’t fully understand what actually causes a headache. Though, there is one explanation for this that the brains of individuals who suffer from migraines are quite sensitive than other individuals. So, when migraineurs get an attack, over-excitable brain cells activate an electrical wave that reaches to other parts of the brain. This wave results in production of serotonin and prostaglandins – the combination that leads to an excruciating headache.



Excessive Fatigue

Excessive fatigue is a common migraine trigger. In cases where fatigue is chronic enough to interfere with one’s daily routines and is not even relieved by ample bed rest, migraine is sure to occur. Such headaches can be controlled by stress management exercises.



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