What Triggers a Migraine?
Unfortunately, there’s a long list of common migraine triggers.
Certain triggers may increase your risk of a migraine attack. While triggers do not directly cause migraines, they are thought to activate abnormal brain activity in people who are prone to get migraine headaches.1
Some triggers include:
- Diet. Drinks like cola and red wine and foods like aged cheeses and chocolate can be migraine triggers.2
- Emotions. Including accumulated stress, anxiety or grief, and even “stress letdown” on weekends and vacations.
- Physical Factors. Habits like skipping meals or not drinking enough water.
- Environment. Changes in temperature and flashing or glaring light are both triggers.
- Sleep. Including not enough and too much.
Migraine triggers vary from person to person, and a single trigger won’t necessarily cause a migraine headache every time you’re exposed to it.1 A combination of migraine triggers may be more likely to bring on a migraine attack.3 And sometimes migraines come on spontaneously — during sleep, for instance.4
It’s a good idea to keep track of the factors that may trigger your migraines. By avoiding your triggers, you may be able to reduce the number of migraine headaches you get.1 Read about how to start a migraine diary.
With so many possible migraine triggers, it can be hard to know exactly when they’ll strike. So consider carrying a migraine survival kit.
1. American Headache Society. Information for Patients. Headache Hygiene — What Is It? Trigger avoidance. Available at:
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Migraine Fact Sheet. Available at:
3. American Migraine Foundation. About Migraine: What Is Migraine? Available at:
4. American Headache Society. Tools for Healthcare Professionals & Their Patients. Trigger Avoidance Information. Available at:
http://www.achenet.org/resources/trigger_avoidance_information/ Last accessed July 2011.