How to Avoid Vacation Migraines
Do you feel like every time you take a break from work, your time off is spoiled by a migraine attack?
It’s not just bad luck. Vacation migraine is a real phenomenon, and it can be triggered by all kinds of things: weather changes, jet lag, altered sleep schedules, stress and more.
While there’s no magic trick to prevent a vacation migraine, you can lower your risk by raising your migraine threshold. This means taking actions to make yourself less vulnerable to triggers. Here are three approaches to try:
Can you take off work a few days before you leave on vacation?
You finish your last shift and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Vacation time, baby! Then you’re awakened at 4 a.m. by the unmistakable signs of a migraine coming on. This is awful — how will you drive to the beach house when all you want to do is curl up in a dark room?
If you’ve ever experienced a migraine attack that immediately follows an intense period in work or life, it may be a stress letdown migraine. “Reduction in stress from one day to the next is associated with migraine onset the next day. Decline in stress may be a marker for an impending migraine attack and may create opportunities for preemptive pharmacologic or behavioral interventions,” a small 2014 study in Neurology found.[i]
"This study highlights the importance of stress management and healthy lifestyle habits for people who live with migraine," said study co-author Dawn C. Buse, Ph.D., a clinical professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City who researches migraine, pain and stress.[ii]
Do your best to reduce stress in the days leading up to your break. Get some tips here: Stress Awareness When You’re Living With Migraine. Or, see you can build in a buffer zone of 2-3 days between the end of work and the beginning of your vacation.
Can you let someone else do the planning?
Comparing hotels and vacation rentals. Figuring out a budget. Researching local attractions. Shopping for airfare, renting a car, buying travel insurance.
Managing vacation logistics is a challenge, especially when you’re planning for the whole family. If it stresses you out, ask someone else to take the reins. That might be a spouse, partner or even a travel agent. Agents have seen a huge uptick in business recently, as travel has become both more desirable and more complex. A travel agent can find the perfect place to stay, advise you on your destination’s COVID-19 requirements, snag you special deals and freebies, and act as your advocate when things go wrong. Less stress for you means a better chance of a migraine-free vacation.
If you go this route, tell your agent you have migraine and explain any limitations you may have. A travel agent might be able to arrange certain accommodations, such as a room on the quietest side of the resort or a request for the housekeeping staff to use fragrance-free cleaning supplies.
Can you stick to your migraine prevention routine while you’re traveling?
Vacation can tempt you to scrap your normal routines. You want to sleep late! You want to eat four-course meals! You want to sip prosecco while watching the sunset!
The only problem is that migraine hates change, and shaking up your usual patterns can trigger an attack. Instead:
- Stick to your regular sleep-wake schedule, and try to get a full eight hours of sleep.
- Choose foods and drinks that aren’t triggering.
- Eat at regular times, and don’t skip meals.
- Remember to drink enough water, especially if it’s hot.
- Keep up with your exercise routine (or a pared-down version).
- Continue your migraine prevention routines, including using CEFALY’s PREVENT program for 20 minutes daily.
Even if your vacation is months away, the time to invest in drug-free migraine prevention is now. CEFALY is an FDA-cleared medical device that’s clinically proven to quickly treat acute migraine attacks and prevent future episodes. Try CEFALY risk-free for 60 days and see for yourself!
[i] Lipton RB, Buse DC, Hall CB, et al. Reduction in perceived stress as a migraine trigger: testing the "let-down headache" hypothesis. Neurology. 2014;82(16):1395-1401. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000332