You were in the middle a dream at six o’clock.
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As you rub your sleep out of your eyes and jar yourself awake by that annoying alarm, you may feel more than just the Monday blues.
You may first feel a dull ache, but soon realize that it is a migraine. You struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
It can be frustrating to start the day with a headache.
While it may be difficult to pinpoint the cause of your migraines, some common triggers include sleep problems, dehydration and overuse or pain medication.
Headache specialist Zubair Ahmed explains what causes migraines and how you can get a good sleep and enjoy a peaceful day.
What is a headache?
It’s easy to mistake a migraine for a mild headache. But a migraine is actually a neurological disorder that causes symptoms such as:
- Headache ranging from mild to severe
- Pain that throbs or pounding.
- Sensitivity towards light, noise, and odors.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Stomach pain and discomfort.
- Dizziness and blurred Vision
About 12% of Americans suffer from migraines, and most last at least four hours. Chronic migraines are migraines that occur at least 15 times per month.
Dr. Ahmed says that a migraine can range from mild to severe. It can reduce your activity and affect your ability to perform tasks.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraines usually occur in the morning.
What causes you wake up with a headache?
Migraines are disabling and can cause you to miss your work or be absent from your daily life. Dr. Ahmed explains what could possibly trigger a migraine in the morning.
Sleep issues can be a problem
Sleep disorders such as insomnia, teeth grinding, and restless leg syndrome can affect your sleep quality and quantity. This can increase the frequency of migraines.
Dr. Ahmed notes that sleep has several functions which are essential for us to function normally throughout the day. “We’re learning, for example, that during sleep we get rid metabolic waste that can accumulate in the brain. We believe that headaches can be caused by these processes being hampered.
Drinking too little water
Hydration is key to preventing migraines. Dr. Ahmed cites a research study that examined migraine sufferers who visited the ER.
This study found that many headaches will improve if you give IV fluids to patients, suggesting that there may be an element of dehydration.
Overusing over-the-counter pain medication
Dr. Ahmed says that if someone uses Excedrin(r), or Tylenol (r), every day, they are at risk of developing a headache called a medication-overuse headache.
Aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can help relieve migraine pain. While this may be helpful in the short-term, it can lead to a vicious headache cycle.
Certain foods are not recommended for consumption
You may be familiar with migraines and know that certain foods, such as aged cheese, chocolate, red wine, or even red wine, can trigger a migraine. These foods contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) or nitrates, which are known migraine triggers.
Dr. Ahmed says that the key thing to remember is that not all foods are the same. “So, it takes patience, keeping a diet diary, and systematically going over your diet to determine if there is something that could be associated with headaches.”
Too much caffeine in the body
You can still have your cup of coffee, but limit the amount of caffeine you consume each day. If you drink a lot coffee one day and then not have the same amount the following day, you could develop a headache due to the sudden drop in caffeine levels.
What should you aim for then? You should aim for between 100 milligrams to 150 milligrams a day, which is about a cup or coffee. This amount of caffeine can help to relieve migraines because it has the ability to reduce blood flow. You are at a higher risk of migraine if you consume more than 400 milligrams.
Depression or anxiety
Migraines are often triggered by mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which can affect your sleep and stress levels.
“Depression and anxiety are closely linked to migraine.” We know that migraine patients are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety, and vice versa,” says Dr. Ahmed. We think that this may be due to the regulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which are associated with migraines and depression. Some antidepressants are effective in reducing migraine frequency and severity.
Avoiding bright lights, strong odors and loud noises
Some people can get migraines from certain stimuli, such as bright lights, strong scents (such as smoke or scented candle) and loud sounds.
Why does this happen? Dr. Ahmed says that it is unknown why certain stimuli trigger migraines.
Changes in barometric Pressure
Yes, the weather does affect migraines. A sudden rise in temperature or a drop in barometric tension can trigger a headache. The pressure change affects your sinuses and nasal cavities by forcing fluids in your tissues.
A significant barometric change could also change the amount pressure on your head and how your brain blocks your pain.
Endorphins help to relieve pain, reduce stress and improve your mood. Your body produces less hormone in the early morning, between 4 and 8 am. Your body also produces more epinephrine which can cause migraines.
You may get more migraines when your estrogen levels change — during your period, during pregnancy or menopause.
Treatment options for morning headaches
There is no cure for migraines. However, there are ways to manage it. These include using over-the counter medications (but only according to the directions) like Excedrin(r), Migraine, and Advil(r), Migraine.
Prescription medications include:
Some vitamin supplements, such as riboflavin and magnesium, or butterbur, butterfew or feverfew may also be helpful, but you should discuss this with your doctor before taking any of these.
Dr. Ahmed says that there is no one-size fits all approach to treating migraines. “That’s the reason it’s so important to consult a headache specialist. They can ensure that any treatment plan you receive is tailored to your needs. Treatment options are varied, ranging from oral medications to monthly injections to infusions. It depends on the individual, the severity of the migraines, and the lifestyle.
How to avoid waking up with migraines
Dr. Ahmed shares some tips to help prevent migraines:
- Be consistent. A daily routine can help to keep migraines away.
- Pay attention to your meals. Along with drinking enough water, you should also pay attention to the foods you eat and avoid those that trigger migraines.
- Get moving. Moderate exercise — walking, cycling, swimming, etc. — for 30 minutes has been shown to reduce migraines. Yoga and meditation are also helpful.
When to seek help
Dr. Ahmed advises that you should see a healthcare professional as soon as possible if you suspect you are suffering from migraines.
“Migraines definitely are under-diagnosed, and there is also a stigma surrounding them,” he says. “One study found migraines to be the most disabling disease in people under 50.” Many people think of migraines as a “regular headache.” But, we now know that it’s much more.
If you suffer from frequent headaches, which can disrupt your daily routine, a doctor can help you make lifestyle changes.
Dr. Ahmed assures that there are ways to reduce the impact migraines have on you, especially in terms of your ability to work.
“We want migraines to be addressed early and we want to identify things that are helpful. It may be as simple as making lifestyle changes, or it could require medication. “But your doctor will be there with you to figure it out.”
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