The Biggest “Let Down Headache” Myth Revealed

Let down migraines can be draining and exceedingly painful.  These headaches generally happen after a sudden release of stress, such as after a long day at the office, or after a particularly stressful situation.

let down headacheThe biggest myth is that stress causes your let down headache. It’s not exactly true.  It’s the sudden come-down, after the stress is gone and the day is over.  In a study at Montefiore Headache Center, researchers found that people were five times more likely to suffer a migraine within 6 hours after the stress starts to decline. This could be hormonal and chemical in nature, with stress hormones like cortisol, and feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, fluctuating wildly.  There is really no known explanation for the migraine; however, there are ways that it can be prevented.

We discussed in a previous post some of the major triggers of let down headache, which include lack of sleep, anxiety, small or no breakfast, skipping lunch, dehydration, and staying under fluorescent lights and in air conditioning all day long. Now, let’s have a look at 8 ways we can avoid these triggers.

8 Ways to Avoid Your Next Let down Headache

While there are factors of let down headaches that cannot be controlled, several of them can be.  Here are some tips to help you avoid the let down headaches!

  1. Regulate your sleep cycle. Keep the same bedtime and wake-up time, and get at least 7 to 8 hours of good, quality sleep each night.  I can’t stress this enough.  Lack of sleep does more damage to the body than anything else ever could.  Read some of my posts on how you can get better sleep.
  2. Reduce caffeine intake. Limit yourself to two reasonably sized cups per day, at most.  Caffeine is a trigger because it causes higher pressure in the brain.  Nice for a quick punch-in-the-brain wake-up call, but not so good for migraineurs.
  3. Eat breakfast. Don’t just do a protein bar or a handful of peanuts.  Go for gold, as this really is the most important meal of the day.  It wakes up the body and assures it that it will not starve that day.  Go for some oatmeal with fruit or peanut butter toast and an apple instead.
  4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is an obvious one.  Refill your water bottle several times a day, or as much as humanly possible.
  5. Eat lunch. Don’t skip any meals, as this can lead to nutritional deficiencies, which in and of itself is a trigger.
  6. Go outside for a few minutes every day, when the sun is shining. Spend at least 10 minutes outside of the air-conditioned, fluorescent rooms.  This works wonders for the mind and skin.  Remember that fluorescent lights and air-conditioning can put pressure on the eyes and dry out the skin, causing dehydration.  When hanging outside, though, wear sunglasses to keep from squinting.
  7. Try to pace yourself. Keep energy levels steady and try not to allow yourself to get too worked up about anything.
  8. Find ways to cope with anxiety. This is more difficult because anxiety is a true condition.  However, there are ways to cope.  Learn breathing exercises, meditation, or affirmations that will help release that stress.

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If you can master these habits, then your chances of avoiding the let down headache are high, and you will actually be able to make it out to happy hour after a long day of work!  Keep in mind that there are still triggers that cannot be controlled such as weather changes, hormonal imbalances, and even your menstrual cycle, so you may still experience these headaches every now and then.

Most importantly, and this is going to sound really strange, but don’t release all of your stress at the end of the day.  After work or after a long stressful situation, keep a bit of stress in your life such as thinking about having to clean the house or finish the laundry when you get home.  This will ensure there is not a sudden drop in stress-regulating hormones.