Health & Wellness Articles

5 Healthy Habits That Can Cause Headaches

These Good-for-You Habits Might Be a Pain in the Head

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By Robin Donovan, Health Writer         
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Headaches can be frustrating, popping up when you're tense, stressed, dehydrated or otherwise unbalanced. It's easy to blame them on the obvious culprits: a late night, a skipped meal or an insane work schedule. But some of your healthiest habits could be to blame for that recent headache, too. Here are five good-for-you habits that can be a real pain in the head.

Catching Up On Sleep
Lounging in bed until well after the sun rises—especially if you usually get up early—may help you catch up on some much needed sleep. However, alternating high-stress days with stress-free "veg" sessions can trigger changes in the amount of stress hormones in your bloodstream. As these hormone levels change, your blood vessels constrict (narrow) and dilate (widen), which can trigger a headache—especially if the shift is sudden.

Sleeping in is always going to be tempting, but shifting a bit of your weekday workload to a weekend or another "off" day can help even out stress levels, preventing headaches in the process. Don't punish yourself after a long workweek by staying up late and then sleeping until noon. Instead, try to spread your workload throughout the week. If you need to grab some extra shuteye, try a short nap instead of a marathon sleep session.

Kicking Caffeine
A 2004 meta-analysis of research about caffeine withdrawal found that headache symptoms were among the most common effects of giving up the stimulant. That's no surprise to anyone who has ever tried to kick their morning coffee habit or to ignore the urge to grab a caffeinated soda after lunch.

If you're determined to go cold turkey, be prepared to face a few headaches. This withdrawal symptom tends to hit the hardest 12-24 hours after you stop consuming caffeine, peaking in intensity approximately 1-2 days after you quit, and typically subsiding after 2-9 days.

Of course, the greater your daily consumption of caffeine used to be, the more severe the headache symptoms will be when you quit. If you want to avoid headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal, decrease your intake slowly, allowing your body to gradually adjust.

Drinking a Glass of Wine
Recent studies have touted the benefits of drinking one glass of wine each day, but if you're prone to migraines, red wine may be hurting more than it's helping by triggering these painful episodes. Red wine—and foods such as aged cheese, smoked fish and even some beans—contains a substance called tyramine that can trigger migraines.

If you want to prevent headaches, but not the benefits of light alcohol consumption, experiment with different drinks, such as white wine instead of red, to see which ones, if any, trigger your symptoms. Also note that most health experts agree on one thing regarding alcohol and health: If you don't already drink, you shouldn't start. There are many other habits that promote heart health that don't involve consuming alcohol. 

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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

  • One other issue for headaches, including migraine, is the *weather*.... I've basically *never* had a headache when the weather is lovely-- *all* my headaches are when the weather is grey, overcast, low-air-pressure, type days. I'm grateful the weather service I use now has 'migraine weather forecasts' included-- yesterday my headache disappeared 'miraculously' once the weather shifted and became beautiful ;-). While other 'triggers' need to be in place on 'crummy weather' days for a headache to start, it's sort of like the weather gives me 'lots of migraine possible points', allowing the least stress to 'tip' me over. It's a reminder to be especially *good* to myself on 'crummy weather' days, and do pre-emptive strategies to relax to *avoid* getting a migraine ;-).
    - 3/1/2016 10:34:18 AM
  • A lot of good information. I will try some of these suggestions to get rid of headaches. - 3/1/2016 8:47:09 AM
  • This is not a critique of well-intentioned writers. It is definitely an observation on sharing some 'final words' on workable and genuine wellness practices.

    If you seek wellness answers, ask a true wellness person. I don't hold myself out to be a scientist though I read a lot of science and do plenty of experiments. Most of the studies and wellness articles are developed by people who are not 'natural wellness' people. Most people are too busy, have too many responsibilities, are too sedentary, and spend too much time indoors to be considered natural wellness people. Generally, I see people looking through a lens that is fogged by the modern era of fixing problems, not thriving with a natural or intuitive pattern euphoria (from the Greek 'euphoros'--to be well).

    Those are big statements but stand by them I do. Natural wellness takes time and takes some uncontaminated nature. Natural means diurnal living and plenty of downtime, not to mention a myriad of other things including intermittent fasting. One of the ways I write is standing at a high desk. Every hour, I take a stretch or exercise break. This happens throughout the day and helps to provide what native people enjoyed, including, overall wellness, energy (including brain energy), blood flow, biomechanical invigoration, and lymph fluid movement.
    Aloha from my laptop, from where I am connected to my grounding pad.

    See SedentaryNation.c
    om for more. - 2/9/2016 12:42:58 PM
  • So-called "uncured" sausages and luncheon meats that have the characteristic coloring found in "cured" versions actually contain nitrates naturally occurring in celery juice. USDA requires labeling sausages and luncheon meats using celery juice, instead of direct nitrites which undergo curing to becomes nitrates, as "uncured". The color is a dead giveaway.

    Cook's Illustrated has tested the so-called "uncured" bacon from well known brands at places like Whole Foods and the levels of nitrates vary since celery juice is not standardized to deliver specific dosages. Direct add nitrites (which become nitrates during curing process) have a max limit and is carefully controlled. Cook's Illustrated's article on the topic confirmed this consistency.

    Note that foods have standard of identity as noted in the Code of Federal Regulations. This indicates what is and is not allowed in foods. For a company to label a product as "natural Swiss cheese" there are requirements what can and cannot be in that food to allow it to be called "Swiss Cheese" on the front panel of the product.

    This is a very deep topic and if you really want to know what a 'beef enchilada' can contain, google 'beef enchilada CFR'. Food labeling is much more complex than many realize. - 2/5/2015 9:29:17 PM
  • FOXGLOVE999
    Headaches have become an everyday issue for me since trying to be healthier. None of the reasons given are applicable to me. I'm getting very frustrated, I'm tired of feeling bad. - 9/29/2014 10:16:51 AM
  • The headaches from quitting caffeine are so bad it helps me remember why I no longer drink it. don't want to go there again! - 9/6/2014 12:28:58 AM
  • Two major migraine triggers for me are over-sleeping and caffiene withdrawals. I like my coffee too much and loathe migraines enough that I don't plan on giving that up, but I never lounge around in bed long enough to trigger a headache anymore. Mostly my triggers are allergy related now. - 9/5/2014 11:27:35 AM
  • I experience the sleep one. - 6/19/2014 8:23:14 AM
  • Thanks for sharing. Good information. - 12/9/2013 4:51:17 AM
  • A comment for anyone who lowers their sugar and starch intake suddenly - the sudden loss of retained water will make you low on sodium, and this generally can cause headache and fatigue, as well as sore muscles. You'll need to drink some broth or sports drink to get your electrolytes balanced again. - 12/1/2013 12:44:18 PM
  • I get headaches when it's hot but I doubt it's because I'm dehydrated. I drink a LOT of water and I always have a bottle on hand. - 6/27/2013 11:08:55 AM
  • I sometimes get headaches after I run. I was blaiming allergies but now I wonder if it's dehydration espeically since this tends to happen more in the summer than winter.

    Just for fun I weighed myself before and after my run yesterday, I lost 1 pound of water running. Well I didn't lose it, it was there on my shirt but that's a lot of water really. - 6/27/2013 10:28:24 AM
  • KAT773
    Interesting article, but I found the nhs.uk article (listed as a resource for this article) much more informative. For instance, the nhs.uk article listed other triggers that could be in your packed lunch, such as aged cheeses, diet drinks or dark chocolate. - 6/27/2013 1:54:48 AM
  • Yes really good info. I need to stay motivate all the time. I had a headache yesterday. I went to long before eating after church. Went visiting for father day. - 6/17/2013 4:32:41 PM
  • This is some great information, particularly about sleeping and exercising; I think the biggest takeaway is to be consistent, which is something I struggle with. Knowing that it's going to help reduce headaches is definitely a motivator. - 5/28/2013 3:39:29 AM

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