Migraines are complex and often debilitating neurological disorders characterised by severe, throbbing headaches accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and in some cases, visual disturbances known as auras. Migraine headaches, a prevalent neurological condition, impact millions of individuals globally and studies indicate that they can be induced by a variety of variables such as stress, hormone changes, food, sleep and certain environmental conditions but the question is, are weather fluctuations one such environmental component that trigger migraine?
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Sampath Chandra Prasad Rao, ENT/Otorhinolaryngologist, Otologist/ Neurotologist and Head and Neck Surgeon at Apollo Spectra Hospital in Bangalore, shared, “While the exact cause of migraines is not fully understood, they are thought to involve a combination of genetic, environmental and neurological factors. Weather changes have been reported by many individuals as potential triggers for migraines.”
He added, “Weather changes, especially shifts in barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric conditions, can potentially trigger migraines in some individuals. However, not everyone with migraines is sensitive to these weather changes and the exact mechanisms behind these triggers are not well-defined.”
Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Narendra Shetty, Chief Wellness Officer at Kshemavana, revealed, “Temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and even seasonal variations have all been associated with the development and intensity of migraines. Rapid changes in climatic conditions have been found in studies to disrupt the body’s internal balance, resulting in migraines in those who are sensitive. Weather changes may cause variations in blood flow, nerve sensitivity, and neurotransmitter activity in the brain. An abrupt reduction in barometric pressure, for example, might cause blood vessels in the head to widen, resulting in the pounding headaches associated with migraines. People who have a migraine history are frequently more sensitive to weather changes, making them more likely to experience migraine attacks during periods of considerable climatic variation.”
He highlighted that while weather changes do not affect all migraine patients, many find that keeping note of weather patterns can help them anticipate and manage potential triggers and this includes paying attention to weather forecasts and making lifestyle changes during vulnerable times, such as staying hydrated and practicing relaxation techniques.
The significance of sleep hygiene in migraine prevention
According to Dr Sampath Chandra Prasad Rao, a group of behaviours and routines that support sound and restful sleep are referred to as good sleep hygiene and establishing and maintaining good sleep hygiene is crucial for overall well-being which can also play a significant role in migraine prevention. Here’s why –
- Consistency in Sleep Patterns: Regular sleep patterns help regulate the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm). Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help maintain a stable sleep-wake cycle.
- Adequate Sleep Duration: Getting enough sleep is essential for migraine prevention. Sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality can lower the threshold for migraine triggers. It is important to aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Avoiding Oversleeping: While getting enough sleep is crucial, oversleeping can also trigger migraines in some people. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule helps avoid excessive sleep on weekends or days off.
- Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Ensure that the bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Limiting Stimulants and Screens: Avoid caffeine and electronic screens (phones, computers, TVs) close to bedtime.
- Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can improve sleep quality and help prevent migraines. However, avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, as it might have a stimulating effect.
- Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation are examples of relaxation practices that can help lower stress and improve sleep.
- Healthy Eating Habits: Maintain a balanced diet and avoid heavy, spicy, or large meals close to bedtime. Alcohol and certain foods can disrupt sleep patterns and trigger migraines in some individuals.
- Manage Stress: Chronic stress is a common migraine trigger. Incorporate stress-reduction strategies such as mindfulness, yoga, or hobbies into your routine to improve sleep quality and overall well-being.
He asserted, “It is important to note that while good sleep hygiene can be helpful in managing migraine frequency and severity, it might not completely eliminate migraines for everyone, especially those with a strong genetic predisposition. In case of frequent or severe migraines, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and personalised treatment plan.”
Echoing that sleep hygiene is critical in migraine prevention, Dr Narendra Shetty stated that maintaining proper sleep hygiene can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines and listed the reasons why sleep hygiene is important for migraine prevention –
1. Migraine Triggers: Sleep disruptions can disrupt the brain’s chemical equilibrium, increasing the chance of a migraine attack.
2. Relax and Recovery: Adequate sleep allows the body to relax and heal, lowering overall stress and perhaps reducing migraine triggers.
3. Stress Reduction: Adequate sleep leads to stress reduction, and excessive stress levels have been linked to migraines in many people.
4. Hormonal Balance: Adequate sleep contributes to hormonal balance. Hormonal variations during the menstrual cycle can influence migraine occurrence.
5. Circadian Rhythm Regulation: Regular sleep patterns aid in the regulation of the body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. Some people have migraines when their circadian rhythm is disrupted.
6. Increased Pain Tolerance: Adequate sleep has been linked to increased pain tolerance. Good sleep hygiene can assist to reduce migraine discomfort intensity.
Methods to encourage sleep hygiene for migraine prevention:
1. Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule
2. Optimise Your Sleep Environment
3. Limit Stimulants: caffeine and alcohol consumption.
4. Limit screen time before bed.
5. Maintain Physical Activity
6. Manage Stress
7. Avoid Heavy Meals
Dr Narendra Shetty concluded, “Weather changes might cause migraines in certain people. Recognizing these potential triggers can help with migraine management and improve the quality of life for those who suffer from this debilitating ailment. Individuals who suffer from migraines may find a reduction in migraine frequency and severity by prioritising adequate sleep and practicing proper sleep hygiene, leading to this leads to an enhanced state of well-being and an elevated standard of living.”