The most common headache triggers include:
- Stress, Particularly for chronic tension headaches or migraine, stress can be a powerful trigger. Such stress may come from major life events such as a divorce or moving. Constant "daily hassles" can have an even bigger effect.
- Some suggest that stress increases a pain–producing imbalance by enhancing the pain carrying pathways in the brain and inhibiting the brain’s own internal pain control system.
- Diet A small percentage of people with migraine point to a particular food as a factor in their attacks. Alcoholic beverages, especially red wine and beer, may cause problems. Congeners, the substances that give an alcoholic beverage its distinguishing characteristics, may be a culprit rather than the alcohol itself.
Caffeine withdrawal can cause headache. When blood levels of caffeine drop, symptoms of withdrawal, including headache, may set in. That’s why heavy coffee drinkers commonly experience “Morning headache” until they have that first cup of coffee, and why many people who sleep in late on the weekends have a headache on those days.
Food additives, such as sodium nitrite and monosodium glutamate in many processed foods, may also trigger migraine in some people.
Other common triggers are:
- Change in the weather or seasons, altitude, or time zones.
- Change in sleep patterns and meal times.
- Fluctuations in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, estrogen therapy for menopause, or use of oral contraceptives.
- Sensory irritants, such as strong or flickering lights, or unusual odors.
- Polluted air or stuffy rooms.