Ever notice you get more headaches in the summer, and if you’re a migraine sufferer their frequency increases?
Here are some reasons why this could be happening:
- Changes in Barometric pressure – before a summer storm arrives, there’s a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure, then as the weather conditions level out it rises again. When the air pressure is low it allows our body’s tissues to expand more, putting pressure on nerves and other parts of our body. This can trigger the onset of a migraine due to the impact on blood vessels in and around the brain, causing them to dilate or swell.
- Dehydration – increased temperatures and humidity, along with losing water and sodium through sweating can lead to dehydration. Low sodium levels are headache-provoking and extended periods of strenuous exercise can trigger and exacerbate migraines.
- Sunlight – up to 60% of migraine attacks are triggered by bright light, and a lot of people who suffer from migraines or acute headaches are light-sensitive. It is the Blue Wavelengths from the sun (the same as in devices like smartphones and TVs) that are the most intense and high energy, causing eye strain, headaches, eye dryness or sleep interruptions.
The summer brings with it longer hours of light, increased strength and sun glare, and more exposure to blue light, all of which are contributing factors to headaches and migraines.
- Lack of sleep – we all know what it’s like trying to get to sleep on warm, muggy nights, and interrupted or reduced sleep can also be a trigger for headaches and migraines.
- Low blood sugar levels – it’s easy to get carried away when you’re having fun in the sun, but skipping meals or eating high-sugar foods can cause drops in glucose levels. Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) change the levels of your brain hormones which impact blood vessel dilation, increasing blood flow and resulting in dull or throbbing head pain, or triggering a migraine.
To still enjoy the summer and avoid debilitating migraines or headaches, here are some tips to avoid the common triggers:
- Stay cool - apply a cold pack to your head or neck, or tie a wet bandana around your neck to regulate body temperature and keep you from overheating.
- Protect your eyes - wear polarised sunglasses to block harmful glare, as well as caps or brimmed hats.
- Stay hydrated - drink at least 1.5-2 litres of water a day, even more if you’re particularly active, and avoid caffeinated drinks that tend to cause dehydration. For rapid rehydration, eat salty snacks with water and increase your overall intake of fruit and vegetables throughout the day.
- Avoid exertion in the heat - try to run errands and exercise in the cooler mornings or evenings. Keeping exercise consistent and of a low-mid intensity that you know doesn’t trigger a migraine can actually be a preventative treatment.
- Keep your bedroom cool - close curtains or blinds during the day, and open windows at night. It’s worth investing in a fan or air cooler if you can, to keep the air circulating while you sleep.
- Eat regularly - avoid drops in glucose levels by eating small meals and snacks regularly throughout the day. If you feel a headache symptom starting and you think it could be because your blood sugar levels are low, focus on eating a carbohydrate-rich snack for a quick recovery – a banana is great for this.
- Food Triggers – migraine sufferers will likely know if there are certain foods that can trigger them, however, it’s worth keeping a headache diary to see if there are any correlations and patterns you can identify. Seasonal food such as salmon and salad, along with ginger, can build up your body’s defence system against migraines by increasing your intake of omega-3s, magnesium and vitamin B2.
Whilst there’s no guaranteed way to avoid every headache or migraine, hopefully, some of these steps will help minimise them and their impact.
Remember to be observant of triggers that affect you personally, whether that’s certain foods, sleep disruption, physical stress, or the weather, but don’t focus on them too much, this in itself can increase levels of stress, which in turn can lead to a headache.
If you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines and the symptoms are impacting your life, seek medical advice and speak to your GP.