Autumn/Winter Migraine and Cluster Headaches
The change of seasons from Summer to Autumn to Winter and the change in the related weather affects us all. Some of us experience feelings of joy and happiness at the wonderful colour display that Mother Nature puts on, others will feel extremely depressed at the shortening days and lengthening nights. Many people who suffer from Migraine and Cluster Headaches have the added menace of more frequent, and sometimes more vicious attacks. No one really knows why, but they hypothesise that changes in the following have an effect:
- Barometric pressure;
- Pressure in the atmosphere of the planet. “Barometric pressure changes might affect the pressure in the brain or the way the brain blocks pain, but it’s not quite known. What’s quite clear, however, is that overcast, cloudy and rainy days produce more Migraine headaches,” Dr. Steven Graff-Radford, DDS, the director of the program for headache and orofacial pain at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in an interview with migraineagain.com
- Humidity and temperature;
- Changing from warm to cold weather can affect people who suffer from migraine or Cluster Headache, as can going from the cold outside to the heat inside. Indoor heating can also dry the air terribly and this can trigger migraine. If this happens keep a glass or bowl of water beside a radiator or heater to keep the moisture in the air.
- Brain chemistry and Hormone levels;
- Fluctuations from all the changes have an effect on our brain chemistry. Melatonin is the thing that helps to control our natural sleep patterns but it needs light to get it right. Due to the lack of light at this time or year, as well as fluctuations in our Serotonin levels can leave us open to SAD or Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder which can cause severe depression and anxiety, which in turn can lead to an attack
- Besides humidity and temperature, the change from calm and warm (well relatively warm) weather to windy/wet/cold weather can play havoc with our neurological systems. When you have a hypersensitive brain, this can make things much worse.
- Sleep habits;
- with longer nights and warmer electric blankets we tend to cosy up earlier or for longer than usual
- From long bright days to long dark nights;
- The dark mornings and evenings make it much more difficult to motivate ourselves to get up, to exercise and to leave the house unless we absolutely have to!
- Foods and diet;
- All the cold healthy salads are gone and the warm soups, stews, meaty, wholesome winter foods can be suddenly heavy, with many of them containing MSG and other preservatives. We also feel cold when we’re hungry and this time of year we may eat more comfort foods to help us through the dark days.
- Stress levels;
- Going from relaxing Summer holiday-mode to chaos from Hallowe’en onwards can cause havoc. You’ve gone from relaxing on a beach somewhere to back to work – having to sort Hallowe’en costumes and trick or treating – getting ready for the inevitable rush to get all your shopping done in …. days 🙂 How can you not trigger an attack?!
How can I help myself?
- Use a migraine diary to find and track triggers so that you can learn how to avoid them.
- Try as much as possible to get out and get fresh air, but beware breathing in too much cold air through your nose particularly. This can cause its own pain.
- Drink plenty of fluids – try to keep drinking water, even if it’s cold. It really is the best way to keep hydrated, but hot soups are good for pitch-side if needed. If you can’t bare to drink cold water, then hot water with a slice of lemon (as long as citrus isn’t a trigger) can be a nice alternative.
- Supplement with vitamins and minerals, such as riboflavin, magnesium, coenzyme Q10
- Use something like an SAD lamp if you’re prone to SAD, but be careful as they are bright. If you’re photosensitive you could try melatonin and serotonin supplements – make sure you fun this past your GP though first.
- Keep your meds and (for Cluster sufferers) your oxygen to hand and be ready with rescue remedies if needed such as warm packs, cushions/pillows, blankets or something (someone) to snuggle into.
- Try to continue your regular sleep patterns despite the change in darkness to light ratio
- Try to relax and enjoy the season. If you’re into photography or painting at all, the light at this time of year is great and can produce some magnificent scenery. Go for a slow walk, get some fresh air but snap the colours around you and have a look at the beauty out there.
- Try to manage stress if at all possible. Unlike Migraine Sufferers, Cluster Headache sufferers cannot lie in a dark quiet room and sleep, they are agitated and literally ready to bang their head against a wall. Trying to manage your stress levels may help to stave off an attack. Try some mindfulness or mediation exercises to help you cope with all the chaos. This goes for Migraine Sufferers too. Stress is a trigger across the board…