Headache hygiene involves avoiding triggers and practicing healthy lifestyle habits to reduce the frequency, intensity, and severity of a headache or migraine episode.

If you deal with frequent migraine episodes, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 5% of people live with chronic migraine.

The symptoms that accompany a migraine, such as pain, nausea, and light and sound sensitivity can be difficult to cope with. You may wonder what steps you can take to reduce migraine frequency or avoid an episode altogether.

Not every migraine is preventable. However, there are some things you can do to set yourself up to have fewer migraine episodes. This is known as headache hygiene.

Headache hygiene focuses on making changes to controllable migraine factors. It involves avoiding common migraine triggers, as well as implementing certain habits and routines that may help prevent a migraine episode.

The goal of headache hygiene is to reduce migraine:

  • likelihood
  • frequency
  • intensity
  • severity

Headache hygiene may also help reduce the reliance on migraine medication.

Follow these steps to help improve your headache hygiene.

Certain triggers are known to bring on a migraine episode. However, migraine triggers can vary from person to person.

Common migraine triggers include:

  • stress
  • certain foods, like chocolate, cheese, and cured meats
  • certain drinks, like alcohol or caffeinated beverages
  • dehydration
  • changes in sleep schedule
  • changes in weather
  • bright or flickering lights
  • strong odors
  • certain medications

Keep a migraine log

In some cases, you may be able to identify when exposure to a known trigger brings on a migraine episode. Other times, you may have no idea why you’ve been hit with a migraine. In these cases, there may be patterns that you’re not yet aware of.

Keeping a migraine diary may help you identify all of your migraine triggers. Next time you experience a migraine, take notes on:

  • what you ate and drank
  • timing of meals and snacks
  • stress level
  • your sleep
  • what else was going on that day
  • timing of migraine onset
  • symptoms and severity

Do your best to write down as many details as possible. Depending on how often you experience a migraine, it’s smart to keep records for at least a few weeks or up to a few months.

It can be helpful to review your migraine diary with a healthcare professional. Together, you can look for patterns. The more you know about potential triggers, the more you can focus on strategies to manage them.

Certain foods are more likely to cause a migraine episode than others.


Any kind of alcohol has the potential to trigger a migraine episode. This may be from the ethanol content or other compounds in alcoholic drinks.

Research suggests that red wine is most likely to cause headaches and migraine symptoms.


Caffeine is another known migraine trigger. You can find caffeine in:

  • coffee
  • tea
  • energy drinks
  • chocolate

For some people, too much caffeine may trigger a migraine episode. However, if you’re used to consuming a certain amount of caffeine, caffeine withdrawal may also cause an episode.


Another compound associated with migraine is tyramine. It’s naturally present in several foods.

Common foods that contain tyramine include:

  • aged cheese
  • processed meats
  • chocolate
  • fermented foods

Tyramine may not trigger a migraine episode for everyone. Keeping a migraine diary can help you figure out if any of these foods are migraine triggers for you.

Skipping meals may trigger a migraine episode. The solution? Keeping a regular meal and snack routine.

Some people do best with eating five or six smaller meals rather than three large meals each day. You can experiment to see what feels better for you.

What you eat may matter too. Research shows that people who follow a DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet experience less severe migraine episodes.

A DASH diet focuses on:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • low fat dairy
  • beans
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • fish
  • poultry

A DASH diet also limits red meat and sugary foods.

Dehydration has been associated with a greater risk of a migraine episode. Do your best to drink enough fluids, especially if you’re more active than usual or it’s a hot day.

Quality fluid sources include:

  • water
  • sports drinks
  • juice
  • soup or broth
  • decaffeinated teas
  • milk or milk alternative beverages

Some sports drinks and juices may contain a high amount of sugar, and sugar may be a migraine trigger for some.

Coffee can also count toward your fluid intake but be careful if caffeine is a trigger for you. In most cases, it’s better to rely on caffeine-free drinks to meet your fluid needs.

Lack of sleep is a common migraine trigger. That’s because sleep deprivation actually changes how the brain functions.

Neurons are cells that send and receive messages in the brain. They become more easily activated when you don’t get enough sleep. This can result in an increased sensitivity to other migraine triggers.

Getting enough quality sleep matters. So does your sleep routine. Follow these tips to promote good sleep:

  • Establish a wind down routine that may involve taking a warm bath and practicing relaxation strategies.
  • Avoid screen time an hour before bed.
  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, even if it’s the weekend or a holiday.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and free of electronics.

The connection between exercise and migraine is a bit complicated. Some studies show that exercise may prevent a migraine episode. However, there’s also the potential for exercise to be a trigger.

People who have consistent exercise routines appear to experience fewer migraine episodes. Research shows that consistent exercise changes the brain. This makes the brain less sensitive to migraine triggers.

Exercise can also help reduce stress, another common migraine trigger.

On the other hand, intense activity has also been reported as a migraine trigger. However, it’s unclear whether the physical activity itself is the true trigger, or if the migraine episode is being triggered by something else, such as:

  • fatigue
  • overheating
  • dehydration
  • not eating enough before exercising

If you’re not currently active and are hoping to fit more exercise into your life, don’t despair. Just take it easy and start slow. Stay hydrated and have an extra snack on hand to ensure you have enough energy for the activity.

Stress is one of the most common migraine triggers. Most people who experience migraine notice that periods of stress can bring on a migraine episode.

There’s some debate about the exact connection between stress and migraine. It’s been shown that stress changes the brain, which may make you more susceptible to other migraine triggers. Of course, dealing with chronic migraine can be another source of stress.

You can’t get rid of your stressors, but you can find ways to manage them.

Try these strategies to help you alleviate stress:

  • Spend time with a friend.
  • Do something creative.
  • Try guided meditation.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Work with a therapist.

Chronic migraine can interfere with all parts of your life. Practicing headache hygiene can help reduce the frequency, intensity, and severity of migraine episodes.

Keep a log of when you experience migraine episodes and what occurred leading up to each one. Share it with your doctor so that together, you can pinpoint your migraine triggers and come up with a plan to avoid them.