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Identifying What Triggers Your Headache Is Key to Treatment


Common headache triggers vary depending on the type of headache and on the individual. A sound or smell that serves as a migraine headache trigger in one person, for example, may have no effect at all on another. Identifying your common headache triggers can help you avoid headaches or learn to cope with them more effectively. Here are some common headache triggers for the major headache types:

Stress and Headaches

Stress is a trigger for most headaches, says Dr. Jaime Lopez, assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and director of the Intraoperative Neurophysiologic Monitoring Program at Stanford University Medical Center. Stress can also lead to more serious migraine headaches.

Tension-type headaches result when muscles in the neck shoulders and head tense up, limiting blood flow to the area and building up waste products in the tissues. The end result: pain.

Sleep Disorders and Headaches Sleep disorders are closely linked with tension, migraine and cluster headaches. Fatigue may cause contractions in the head and neck muscles of tension-type headache sufferers. Morning headaches or headaches that occur during the night may be related to such underlying sleep disorders as sleep apnea, in which people stop breathing for extended periods, or insomnia.

Changes in sleep patterns — getting too much or too little — can trigger migraines in some people. Treatment of migraine often includes regular sleep patterns — going to sleep and arising each day at the same time.

Smoking and Headaches

Smoking increases the risk of tension headaches and is a trigger for some migraine sufferers. Many doctors recommend quitting smoking to reduce the risk of headaches.


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