Letdown Headaches: What They Are & How To Manage, From An MD
Migraines are a classification of headaches that are often isolating and misunderstood. The neurological condition is genetic, and while there's no single cause, certain external factors can trigger them. And if you generally feel fine throughout the week but suffer from migraines on the weekend, you may be experiencing a "letdown" headache.
What is a letdown headache?
According to family medicine doctor and headache specialist Susan Hutchinson, M.D., a "letdown" headache describes migraines that occur as a reaction to a change in routine.
"One thing we know about migraine patients is that we like routine," Hutchinson says, as a migraine sufferer herself. "But that doesn't always happen in our world."
Amid the pandemic, drastic changes in daily routines and disrupted sleep triggered this cause of headaches in many of Hutchinson's patients. Financial struggles, adapting to working from home with distractions, and the general uncertainty of the world are all causes for stress, which can further exacerbate these "letdown" headaches.
Pandemic aside, "letdown" headaches tend to affect people on the weekends when sleeping and eating routines may differ from on a typical weekday.
"Ideally, people with migraines should go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning, and eat healthy foods," Hutchinson says. "Any disruption in your routine can be a trigger."
How to avoid a "letdown" headache.
While there is no cure for migraines, there are helpful management techniques that may help keep them at bay. To avoid "letdown" headaches, in particular, make and stick to routines throughout the day.
This four-step morning routine from two registered dietitians promotes hydration, gut health, and stress management. Since an unhealthy gut may lead to migraines, this particular routine provides a second layer of support.
Establishing a midday ritual, to give your brain and eyes a break from the computer screen, is also a good idea. Whether you're going out for a quick walk, taking time to de-stress, or making yourself a soothing cup of tea, be sure you partake in afternoon practice at or around the same time each day.
Sticking to a bedtime is not just for children. Sleep is essential for brain health and the management of headaches, so getting into bed and falling asleep at a specific hour each night can go a long way in managing pain.
Bottom line? "Our brain is a circadian organ. So it thrives on that circadian rhythm," integrative neurologist and mbg Collective member Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., once told mbg. Keeping a routine as best you can, even on the weekends, is one of the best ways we can support it.
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