If you find that you often wake up with a migraine, it’s a good idea to look at possible triggers. People who suffer from migraines tend to have about six different triggers each, and what may be a trigger for one person isn’t a trigger for another, says Dr. Werner Becker, a professor of clinical neurosciences at the University of Calgary.
How Migraine Triggers Work
Triggers don’t work in isolation. If you have a glass of red wine, that alone won’t make you wake up with a migraine the next morning. Instead, there is a migraine threshold that is primarily determined by genetics. “If a sufficient number of different internal and environmental triggers build up to reach this threshold, an attack is initiated,” says Dr. Anne MacGregor, a professor at the Centre for Neuroscience and Trauma at the Queen Mary University of London, England. “This explains why an individual does not always get an attack in similar situations — perhaps the threshold fluctuates, or the number of triggering factors varies.” Drugs taken to prevent migraines often work by raising the threshold so that more triggers are necessary before an attack occurs.
Identify Your Triggers
The best way to find out what’s causing your migraines is to keep a trigger journal. Keep a diary beside your bed, and every night record what time you go to bed, what your day was like, what you ate, the weather, where you are in your menstrual cycle and anything else that might trigger a migraine. You may start to notice a pattern of things that occur in combination prior to a migraine attack.
The five most common migraine triggers
“Delayed or missed meals often cause a drop in blood sugar, triggering migraine,” says MacGregor. If you wake up with a migraine, consider the time you ate your evening meal. “A bowl of cereal before bed might be all you need to prevent your headaches,” says MacGregor. Snacking every four hours throughout the day can help maintain a stable blood sugar level and ward off migraines.
In women, hormonal fluctuations associated with menopause and menstruation can provoke a migraine. “More than 50 percent of women who suffer from migraines are more prone to them around the time of their menstrual period,” says MacGregor. “A small percentage of women have attacks only during menstruation.” If hormones are a trigger, you’ll need to be extra diligent at certain times of the month in order to avoid a migraine attack.
If you are continually waking up with a migraine, lack of sleep may be to blame. “Try to keep a fixed sleep pattern,” says MacGregor. “Shift workers should avoid frequent changes of shift times, where possible.”
“Anxiety and emotion play an important role in headaches and migraines,” says MacGregor. You may even notice a spike in migraine attacks after stressful periods when you are finally able to relax. Learn methods of coping with stress, such as meditation and yoga, and focus on eating regularly and getting adequate sleep during stressful times.
Weather is a trigger for some migraine sufferers. Stormy weather, barometric pressure changes, extremely hot or cold temperatures, bright sunlight and dry air can all be triggers. If these factors affect you, try to track weather patterns that may put you at risk and limit your outdoor exposure. Stay hydrated and take extra care to avoid other triggers during high-risk weather changes.