Migraines can be extremely painful. The intensity of a migraine can prevent people from living and enjoying their life for hours, sometimes even days.
Although medication can help, it’s not the only migraine treatment game in town. Simple lifestyle changes can make migraines both less frequent and less intense. Some people find their migraines go away entirely when they take better care of themselves.
What healthy habits are most important for migraine sufferers? These seven stand out:
1. Set a sleep schedule
Getting too much or too little sleep can trigger a migraine for some sufferers. That’s why it’s important to create and stick to a sleep schedule. Go to sleep at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every day.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try these tips:
- Limit light and noise in your bedroom as much as possible.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Exercise in the morning or early afternoon.
- Avoid taking naps during the day.
- Power down your digital devices at least an hour before you go to bed.
- Meditate, journal, or read.
- Take a small dose of melatonin, a hormone that tells your body it’s time to rest.
If you have a hard time waking up in the morning, here’s what to do:
- Put your alarm out of reach so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
- Let in natural light, which acts as the body’s natural alarm clock.
- Drink a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee.
- Eat a good breakfast.
- Plan something to look forward to in the morning.
- Ask your partner to remind you to get up.
You’ll be amazed at how a solid sleep routine can reduce your stress levels. That alone may reduce your migraines.
2. Exercise regularly
If you experience migraines regularly, the thought of exercise may scare you. Too much physical exertion can cause an episode.
With that said, regular exercise is essential for migraine sufferers. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s own painkillers. Plus, exercise can lower your blood pressure and keep blood sugar steady — two physiological bulwarks against migraines.
Opt low- and moderate-intensity exercises, like walking, bicycling, calisthenics, or light weightlifting. Get moving for just 30 minutes per day, and see how you feel after two weeks.
3. Improve your diet
Consuming too much salt or sugar can cause migraines for some people. Eating regular, balanced meals prevents illness, boosts energy levels, and ensures your body has the nutrients it needs.
Like your sleep routine, set and stick to regular meal times. Never skip breakfast. Don’t eat late at night, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, or oversized meals.
Pay attention to not just when and how much you’re eating, but what you’re eating. A diet that incorporates mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can minimize your migraines.
4. Take a stand against stress
Many migraines are triggered by stress. Knowing how to prevent and manage it can make migraines less painful and frequent.
Make sure you take time for yourself, even if it means taking a break from work, family, or friends. Also, find things that make you happy and that help you de-stress. Take a bath, go on a walk, or unwind with yoga.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to de-stress, as long as you’re making time in your schedule to do it. If you struggle to manage your stress levels yourself, check in with a mental health professional.
5. Avoid common triggers
You may be exposing yourself to common migraine triggers without even knowing it. Some of these triggers include the following:
- Cultured dairy products
- Monosodium glutamate
- Citrus fruits
- Flickering lights
- Stormy or volatile weather
- Strong smells, such as perfume
Keep a migraine diary. When you experience one, note your environment and any foods you ate recently. Look for commonalities to identify and avoid your triggers.
6. Practice good posture
Poor posture can strain your head, neck, and shoulder muscles. This can lead to a headache, or worse, a migraine. All parts of the body are connected, and you’d be foolish to think that pain in other parts of your body can’t cause a headache.
The way to make this lifestyle change is to pay more attention. Are you hunching over a computer all day at work? Are you slouching when you sit down?
Check in with yourself throughout the day. Remind yourself to stand tall, pull your shoulders back, and keep your chin up. Even if you have to set alarms for yourself, doing so might reduce the frequency and pain of your migraines.
7. Use aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is an ancient wellness practice that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. These extracts, or “essential oils,” can be used to prevent or mitigate migraines.
Several studies suggest that lavender and peppermint oils can be used to treat migraines. Try adding these to a bath, inhaling them, or applying them to your forehead. Not only might they soothe your head, but they can also reduce stress and help you sleep.
For some, medication may be the only answer for curing migraines. However, you shouldn’t jump to that conclusion before experimenting with what’s in your control.
What’s the worst that can happen? You improve your health and check lifestyle factors off your list. That’s progress, even if you do need a doctor’s help to manage your migraines.