Most people enjoy looking through vacation photos as a way to reminisce about the places they’ve been. It’s more like reminiscing about all the times I had a huge headache: pain in my neck at the Sistine Chapel, dizziness on Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds, and sound sensitivity at Westminster Abbey.
Yes, vacation headaches are a common problem for me. Headaches can happen at any moment. Getting laid up with a headache on your precious PTO may not be as common as you might think.
What’s the deal when your head hurts just as you want to relax? Experts have identified the causes of vacation headaches and what you can do about them.
A let-down headache is yours
Imagine this: You are sitting on a beach chair and enjoying a refreshing drink. But then, ugh suddenly you get a migraine. This is known as a “let down headache,” friends.
“A letdown headache is a headache that occurs after there has been a decrease in stress levels,” Deena Kuruvilla, MD, neurologist and headache specialist, tells Health. Many patients suffering from episodic or chronic migraines tell me that they have had their headaches controlled with preventive treatments. But then, boom! They get an attack while on vacation.
Research from the journal neurology shows that headaches are not triggered by stress. They occur when stress hormones are released. However, it isn’t clear why. Dr. Kuruvilla says that while we don’t know what causes let-down migraines, it has been suggested that there may be a fluctuation in our stress hormone levels. These stress hormones raise during stress, and then decrease when we’re relaxed.”
There are options to prevent your relaxation from turning into a headache. The National Migraine Foundation recommends that you get enough sleep, manage your time, and spend quality time with a friend or partner to stabilize stress levels. These and other stress management activities, especially before you leave for vacation, can help to avoid a spike-and-drop pattern that could trigger a migraine.
Many smaller stressors were added to the mix.
It is not always easy to enjoy a vacation. There are many reasons you might need to take a vacation, from last-minute packing problems to difficult in-laws. These can lead to headaches, both literally and metaphorically.
Self-care strategies to de-stress are the best way to prevent stress. You can download a guided meditation for your car and do deep breathing exercises in the airport terminal. Also, take unscheduled, quiet breaks throughout the trip.
Your normal sleep schedule is not yours anymore
Sleeping in a hotel room is not always easy. Dr. Kuruvilla says that migraine and sleep go hand in hand. “Traveling across time zones can disrupt a person’s circadian rhythm which can lead to migraine attacks and sleep disruption.”
You can get better sleep on vacation by practicing good sleep hygiene. This means that you should stop using your phone before going to bed, keep your bedroom cool and dark, and stick to your regular bedtime routine. You can also add some melatonin to your bathroom. “Melatonin, a hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm, is what we call it. According to Dr. Kuruvilla, research has shown that it may be beneficial in the prevention of migraines.
It is difficult to emphasize the importance of keeping hydrated in order to avoid headaches. Health: “Even a 1-2% increase in body water loss can lead to headaches,” Maryann Wolsey, RD, CDE tells. It is vital to drink enough water.
Vacation dehydration can also be caused by air travel. Switching environments can cause us to lose our healthy habits. Walsh says that if we aren’t used to our normal routine, it can cause us to not drink as much water. This is especially true if we are on a flight or road trip and don’t want to have to stop to use the bathroom every hour.
There’s also the ubiquitous vacation enemy: alcohol. Walsh says that alcohol can cause dehydration because it acts as a diuretic. Walsh says that if we don’t drink enough water before, during, and after a night of drinking, it can cause a hangover as well as headaches.
You can avoid the headaches caused by dehydration. Keep a bottle of H2O in your bag and make sure it is available for you to drink.