Black woman fighting postdrome stretches off edge of bed to grab one of four water glasses on the floor

Working Through My Three Awkward Stages Of Migraine Postdrome

Back in the day when I’d host a party, there was always that one guest that stayed after everyone had left. I’d politely chat with them as I threw away pizza boxes and cleaned up the kitchen. I felt awkward because I never wanted to ask them to leave, but I wanted to ask them to leave. As an introvert, my time with the people had come to a close, and I was ready to turn in for the night. Still, my party-going friend left when they felt good and ready and not a moment sooner. This is how I feel about my migraine postdrome phase: It’s the awkward end of my migraine that won’t leave until it’s totally ready.

What is postdrome?

According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine postdrome “Is a distinct phase in a migraine attack that begins once peak head pain dissipates.” This stage can act like a typical hangover which is why some migraineurs refer to this as the “migraine hangover” phase.1

Tiptoing around the pain's lingering effects

My migraines can feel like my brain has decided to flat-iron itself, but once the immediacy of the pain has dissipated, I still feel its effects linger. During this final stage, I feel better, but I’m in no way ready to get up and run a marathon or even push myself to take those eight long steps to my shower. This is the time I need to be gentle in my recovery, or I’m likely to kick-start another migraine episode all over again.

A step-by-step hangover

My migraine hangover symptoms have remained consistent for years. I can track my migraine’s end by noting which phase I’ve entered. Here are my main three postdrome phases:


Once my intense head-boiling migraine symptoms have abated, I’m left with a lesser form of the pain — a dull headache. While I’m now able to tolerate sunlight and the sound of my young son’s laughter more readily, I’m still not ready to kick back the bedcovers and go about my daily routine. It’s in this beginning phase I try to listen to my body and give it the time it needs to recover. If I push too quickly, my dull aches may grow again into a large migraine.


Once the headache has settled down to a mild twinge, I’m exhausted. The simplest of tasks drains me. It’s like a mix of jet lag, caring for a newborn, and then add pulling an all-nighter cramming for a college exam kind of tired. If I can, I try to take mini-power naps to help regain my energy and pull me through this phase of my migraine hangover.

Extreme thirst

The very last stage of my postdrome finds me parched. All of a sudden, I start downing glasses of water like I’ve been wandering through the desert for weeks on end. The good news is, once this phase starts, I know my postdrome is coming to an end. I’ll soon be ready to leave this awkward migraine phase behind and re-enter the world pain-free.

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