Chronic migraine is a neurological condition where people can experience severe headaches, sound sensitivity, numbness, dizziness, nausea, and more.

Sensitivity to light is another common symptom, with 80–90% of people with migraine reporting this symptom.

Light sensitivity, also called photophobia, can occur during and after a migraine attack. For some people, managing light sensitivity caused by migraine can be crucial. Without proper lighting, you can trigger migraine symptoms or worsen existing symptoms.

While doctors have always recommended seeking a dark room to cope with light sensitivity, new research suggests the type of light you use could actually affect migraine triggers and symptoms, too.

Researchers now believe that certains kinds of light could be useful to those with migraine, while they discourage using other types of light to avoid triggering migraine episodes or worsening light sensitivity.

Certain lightbulbs and lighting to avoid include:

  • fluorescent lights, including compact fluorescent lights (called CFLs) which flicker
  • excessive artificial light
  • too-bright lightbulbs and screens
  • glare
  • intense outdoor light

Follow the infographic below to see the best types of lighting for people with chronic migraine:

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Illustration by Bailey Mariner

Human-centric or integrative lighting

This is a new concept in architecture that supports lighting interior spaces with a variety of lights that complement your activities. It’s based on research in the last few decades that shows how light affects many facets of the body, including your brain and emotions.

You may need to seek the advice of a lighting expert to determine how to incorporate this type of lighting into your space. It should include soft, ambient light that spreads throughout the room, pointing upward or away from you. The lighting may be adjustable so you can change the brightness based on the time of day.

You might need brighter lights near spaces where you prepare food, read, work, or complete other tasks to balance the soft light.

Adjustable lighting

Consider installing a dimming switch for main sources of light. This can allow you to brighten or dim a space depending on the time of day and your migraine symptoms.

Also, note that harsh light used for specific tasks may be problematic for migraine episodes. Try turning on a lamp with a soft LED lightbulb instead of using harsh, direct lighting when you need more light.

Warm LED lightbulbs

LED bulbs with a soft, warm light may be a safe bet if you have chronic migraine. There are many types of LED bulbs and your fixtures may need to be replaced to support them. These bulbs are low cost and last for a long time.

Make sure to purchase LED lights with warm or soft tones, as these are better for those with migraine. You can figure out how bright the bulbs are based on their Kelvin rating, which ranges from 0 to 10,000.

Warm lights have a Kelvin rating of around 2,700. Bright bulbs contain blue light, and this could be problematic for migraine episodes. Avoid using lightbulbs labeled as “cool” or “daylight” or that have a Kelvin rating of above 3,100.

Halogen lightbulbs

These bulbs, like LEDs, do not flicker. They also emit a warm light that may be more soothing if you have chronic migraine.

Halogen lightbulbs are very bright and may be useful if you need more light for certain tasks, such as cooking. Beware that these lightbulbs can become very hot, so do not touch them directly if you’ve recently used them.

Smart lightbulbs

You may find smart lightbulbs useful for managing migraine episodes. In some types of smart lightbulbs, you can adjust the type of light coming out of the bulb. This allows you to determine the hues that best suit your needs and adjust the brightness of the light.

You can also control these lightbulbs with an application on your smartphone or tablet, or even with Bluetooth.

Green light

Some research in the last decade supports the use of green light for migraine management. One study in 2016 found that green light — as opposed to other colors of light like white, amber, and blue — was the least problematic for those with chronic migraine. This may be because green light creates smaller signals in the retina and brain than other colors of light.

Using green light is more complex than installing a green lightbulb. You should purchase a specific green light lamp for migraine. You can try it for a specified amount of time each day in a darkened room for migraine light therapy.