8 Surprising Migraine Triggers
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but wine and cheese may be migraine triggers for some.
For people who suffer from migraines, figuring out what may trigger a headache may be an important step to managing and preventing pain. But while many migraine triggers, such as stress, are well known, here are a few that may come as a surprise to you.
- Champagne and Cheese: It seems unfair that two of life’s gastronomic pleasures should be the source of head pain, but research suggests this is true. The fermentation process of champagne may induce a migraine.1 And aged cheeses contain a compound called tyramine, which may be a migraine trigger for some people.2 Other foods that contain tyramine include fava beans, dried sausages, and smoked fish.3 (Check out "4 Simple Food Swaps" for easy changes that may help you reduce head pain.)
- Stress: If you suffer from migraines, you know how stressful—as well as painful—they can be. Migraines can cause missed work, time away from family and friends, and fear of when the next episode will strike. Here’s the real rub: Stress itself is a known cause of migraines,4 so being stressed that you have a migraine can lead to…more migraines. In addition, if you have a high-stress work week followed by a low-stress weekend, the swing between two extremes can be another migraine trigger.5
- Not Enough Sleep: The optimal sleep span for adults is seven to eight hours a night, and this is especially true for those who suffer from migraines.6 Research suggests that too little sleep causes changes in the expression of key proteins that help regulate the sensory response in facial nerves (the ones thought to play a key role in migraines).7
- Too Much Sleep: On the flipside, changes in sleep patterns (read: getting five hours of shut-eye on weeknights and then 10 hours on the weekends) may also trigger a migraine. In fact, oversleeping on Saturday and Sunday can trigger what’s known as the "weekend headache".8
- The Weather: Bright sunlight, hot temperatures, high humidity, and a change in weather system are all potential migraine triggers.9 One study found that three out of four migraine sufferers reported the onset of a migraine with a drop in barometric pressure.10
- Chewing Gum: In a study published in the journal Pediatric Neurology, when daily gum chewers with recurring headaches gave up the habit, 87 percent saw improvement in their headaches, and some had no headaches at all. Researchers then asked some participants to begin chewing gum again; 100 percent of them reported headaches returning within days. This supports what other research has found: There’s a link between temporomandibular disorders and head pain.12 Gum-chewing places a heavy load on the temporomandibular joint, possibly triggering a migraine.
- Intense Exercise (Including Sex): If you notice a correlation between your cardio workouts and your head pain, you’re not alone. Any kind of intense physical exercise may be a potential migraine trigger, including sex. In fact, migraines after sex are so common that the phenomenon has been dubbed "sex headaches".13
- Perfume: Having dinner with a friend known for wearing too much cologne? Take a seat at the far-end of the table: Strong odors are known migraine triggers.14 While some social situations make it hard to avoid heavily scented people, many offices are now going the fragrance-free route. Talk with your HR department if someone in your workspace wears exceptionally heavy perfume or cologne and it’s triggering migraines.
Figuring out what your specific migraine triggers are is a crucial part of avoiding pain. While a single trigger won’t necessarily cause a migraine every time, a combination of triggers may lead to an attack. Learn about additional common migraine triggers by launching the infographic below.
1. "Is Your Valentine Giving You a Headache?" National Headache Foundation. Web.
2. “Tyramine” National Headache Foundation. Web.
3. National Headache Foundation. Web.
4. American Migraine Foundation. Web.
5. American Migraine Foundation. Web.
6. American Migraine Foundation. Web.
8. National Headache Foundation. Web.
9. "Migraines: Are they triggered by weather changes?” Mayo Clinic. Web.
10. “Examination of fluctuations in atmospheric pressure related to migraine.” Hirohisa Okuma,Yumiko Okuma, Yasuhisa Kitagawa. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:
11. “The influence of excessive chewing gum use on headache frequency and severity among adolescents.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:
12. “Temporomandibular Disorders and Headache: A Retrospective Analysis of 1198 Patients” Hindawi. Web.
13. “Sex Headaches” Mayo Clinic. Web.
14. “Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: