My Various Migraine Triggers
Last updated: May 2022
I’m sure hormones always play a huge part in my migraines. I started getting them right when puberty hit and still get them, fortunately infrequently, today.
Lack of sleep
While we can blame the almighty estrogen, there do seem to be some triggers that push me over the hormonal edge into a migraine. My first migraine was after a sleepover when I’d eaten a bunch of sugar at breakfast. Lack of sleep has always been to blame for my migraines, especially if in concert with other triggers. The sugar seemed to be a one-off or a coincidence - I have a powerful sweet tooth and never had sugar as a direct correlation since.
I got a very bad migraine one night after eating a hotdog at a community BBQ. Hotdogs and other very processed meats have high nitrate content, which has been shown to cause migraines. I avoided hotdogs for years, partially because of fear it would cause another migraine and mostly because I no longer had an appetite for them after enduring an hours-long migraine.
In the realm of sleep deprivation, I have gotten several migraines during or after traveling, especially internationally, where the time zones shift. The combo of sleepiness, motion sickness, and travel stress probably did me in.
I’ve had several instances of getting an aura that may or may not turn into a migraine because of visual stimuli. Once, the light coming through the winter branches as I rode home in the backseat of a car brought on a full migraine with aura. Reading on my phone with a black background and light words gives me an aura that I can usually banish by avoiding similar text or closing my eyes for a few minutes. Patterns on clothing, especially starkly contrasted stripes or plaids, can give me a visual-imprint style aura. So can light coming in through partially open Venetian blinds.
Weather and barometric pressure
The weather is another unfortunate trigger for me. Once I was at an outdoor practice when a cold snap came on. I was wearing a thin sweatshirt. As I shivered and rubbed my hands together, I felt the lights going funny and, soon enough, I was having a migraine. Living places with dramatic changes in barometric pressure has set me off: a sudden snow has put me over the edge.
The special sauce for each of my triggers is stress. I can look at stripes on a normal day and feel fine, but I’m more likely to go down the migraine rabbit hole if I'm particularly activated. Being a human barometer is unpleasant, but I can usually keep my head even with dramatic weather changes if I mind my anxiety.
Migraine triggers and self care
Being aware of my triggers can’t always prevent a migraine, but it can help me set myself up for success. If I have unavoidable stress, I try to limit my exposure to highly processed foods, visual stimuli, and more stress; however I can control that. Naps and stretching are my friends when I can’t do anything about the weather report or the world in general. Being gentle with myself is hard, but I can succeed in my endeavors if I can prioritize self-care.
How many medications do you take to manage your chronic migraines?