Controlling Your Migraine Triggers By NHS


Migraine is a complex neurological condition that affects around 1 in 7 people in the UK. It can cause debilitating head pain, nausea, visual disturbances and sensitivity to light and sound. While there is no definitive cure for migraine, identifying and avoiding potential triggers can help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. This article will explore some of the most common migraine triggers by NHS and provide tips on how to limit exposure to them.

What Are Migraine Triggers?

A migraine trigger is anything that can cause or contribute to the onset of a migraine attack. Triggers vary from person to person, but some of the most well-known include:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dietary factors
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Environmental factors

It’s important to keep a migraine diary to help identify potential triggers. Note down any food, activities, or environmental exposures before an attack. Over time, patterns may emerge that reveal your unique triggers. Some of the most common are explored below.

Top Migraine Triggers and How to Avoid Them

Stress and Anxiety

Stress is one of the most commonly reported migraine triggers. During times of high stress or anxiety, certain hormones like cortisol are released that can spark a migraine attack. Finding healthy ways to manage stress is key, such as:

  • Exercise like yoga, walking, or cycling
  • Relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing
  • Making time for hobbies and social activities
  • Practicing good sleep habits
  • Avoiding overwhelming or stressful situations when possible

Hormonal Changes

Fluctuating hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can trigger migraines in women. Keeping a record of your cycle and migraine patterns can help identify when you’re most at risk. Making lifestyle adjustments around your cycle may help, like staying hydrated, eating regular meals, reducing workouts, and taking extra time to de-stress.

Dietary Triggers

Certain foods and drinks contain compounds that can set off a migraine in susceptible individuals, like:

  • Aged cheeses
  • Processed meats
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine (or caffeine withdrawal)
  • Alcohol like wine or beer
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Identifying dietary triggers through an elimination diet can significantly reduce migraine frequency for some people.

Sleep Disturbances

Insufficient or poor quality sleep is linked to migraine attacks. Aim for 7-9 hours per night and go to bed and wake up at consistent times. Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. Avoid using electronic devices before bedtime. Consider therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia.

Environmental Factors

Elements in your surroundings can also trigger migraines:

  • Bright or flickering lights
  • Strong smells like perfumes
  • Loud noises and high-pitched sounds
  • Changes in weather and barometric pressure
  • High altitudes

Use sunglasses outdoors, avoid strongly scented products, reduce noise levels and make other adjustments to limit environmental exposures.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience frequent migraines despite your best efforts to control triggers, consult your doctor. They may refer you to a neurologist or headache specialist for advanced treatment options. You may benefit from prescription preventive medications or therapies like Botox injections, nerve stimulation or biofeedback.


Identifying and avoiding potential migraine a triggers by NHS can significantly decrease the number and severity of headaches for many sufferers. Keeping a detailed migraine diary is key to uncovering your unique triggers related to stress, hormones, diet, sleep and the environment. Making positive lifestyle changes to limit trigger exposure, along with working closely with your doctor, can help take control of debilitating migraines.

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