migraine can be debilitating. With the help of a neurologist and a migraine expert, here are a few adjustments to help ease the pain. A migraine can be a particularly debilitating type of pain. What’s worse is that they can pop up seemingly out of nowhere, and may even take days to go away. “Migraine is more than just a headache. It is a complex process that begins in the brain and produces many symptoms beyond a headache,” says Brian Grosberg, medical director of the Hartford Healthcare Headache Center and a neurologist based in Harford, Connecticut. While home may be your usual place to curl up and recover, many of the stress that comes from spending more time than usual there — anxiety about getting sick, constantly looking at your devices, and experimenting with new products — may all trigger an intense head throb.
“Migraine occurs because of internal disruptions of the normal chemical and electrical balance of the brain and nervous system,” he explains. According to Grosberg, the brain of someone with migraine disorder may be more excitable and react to light and sound at a lower threshold than a person who does not have the disorder.
Understanding what’s happening when you experience this type of pain is the first step. Creating a tool kit of quick and lasting solutions is next. Grosberg and Thomas Pitts, a neurologist at Hudson Medical in New York City, shared some tips for making your home more migraine-friendly. The good news is that treating a migraine doesn’t require a complete lifestyle overhaul. Just a few tweaks and useful additions can make a world of difference to help ease the pain.
1. Get an alarm clock.
Getting a good night’s sleep can make a big difference for those dealing with migraine. A regular sleep routine is important, which means going to bed around the same time and waking up around the same time each morning. The consistency will help you pinpoint whether or not breaking your routines brings on a headache. Although most of us use an alarm on our cell phones, consider switching to a traditional clock. The light from your phone itself may be a trigger, and a stand-alone clock like the HoMedics Deep Sleep Revitalize Engineered Sleep Sound Alarm Clock (which also plays natural sounds to help you fall asleep) can help alleviate that problem.
2. Invest in an air purifier.
“Household allergens, noxious substances like perfumes, plants, air fresheners, and mold, are common migraine triggers around the house,” says Pitts. Burning candles, incense, and spraying perfumes in the same space where you’re eating, sleeping, and working around the clock may be creating irritants that can bring on a migraine. Clear the air and eliminate these factors with an air purifier like the Molekule Air Mini, which helps reduce many of the triggers Pitts mentioned, plus pet dander, chemical irritants from household cleaners, and more. “Identifying and eliminating allergens is vital and creating a calm and relaxing environment to sleep can be some of the quickest and best things you can do, not only for your migraine but for your overall health,” he explains.
3. Buy Black-Out Shades.
Pitts also notes that sensitivity to light can be a side effect of a migraine and even bring one on. If possible, he suggests arranging your home (in particular, your work-from-home area, if applicable), so that you are not facing directly into sunlight. You can also put up some blackout shades for the spaces where you sleep or nap. These Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shade will get your space completely dark when it’s too bright.
4. Ease tension with an ergonomic chair.
“Sometimes significant levels of muscle tenderness along with postural and mechanical abnormalities have been reported in migraine,” says Grosberg. This tension can be brought on from slouching over your desk or laptop all day. “Using appropriate body mechanics and environmental modifications may help alleviate possible strain,” he adds. One such adjustment to your set-up can be as simple as adding a lumbar support pillow, such as the Back Relief Lumbar Pillow from Brookstone. It’s filled with memory foam and has an adjustable strap that secures it to your desk chair.
5. Start journaling.
It might be the last thing you want to do when your head is pounding, but both Grosberg and Pitts say that keeping a headache journal is an important first treatment step. The Happy Planner’s journal comes in a handy three-pack and has lined and unlined pages and plenty of room to jot down potential triggers. “I advise all of my patients to carefully record different details about their day in order to gain insight into their attacks of migraine. Trying to manage a migraine without this information is like throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded,” says Grosberg. Take daily notes about your symptoms, diet, exercise, environment, stressors, and sleep habits.
6. Keep water bottles handy.
Grosberg says that one of the most common triggers of a migraine is dehydration. “While there’s no magic amount of water that will keep bouts of migraine away, we can all pay attention to our bodies to determine how much water we need,” he explains. While engaging in physical activity, keep in mind that you’ll need even more water than normal to stay hydrated. These water bottles from Milton come in a four-pack, so you can keep them in all the places you spend the most time during the day as a reminder to constantly drink up.
7. Play a meditation app.
The same way that the sound of soothing rainfall can help lull you to sleep, realigning your breathing and clearing your mind of work and your day, can also help you sink into a proper sleep state. “Anything that keeps you awake or causes stress can be a trigger,” says Pitts. Meditation takes patience, but it can help relieve some of the stressors that contribute to migraine.”