Dos and Don’ts for a Migraine-free Halloween

Flashing lights. Flickering fires. Startling sounds. Midnight parties. And candy galore.

For some, it’s the best time of the year. For those of us with migraine, Halloween can be frightful for all the wrong reasons. We have a few suggestions to help you enjoy the holiday.

Don’t overindulge on candy.

Snickers. Twizzlers. M&Ms. Skittles. We all have our favorites… but eating too many Halloween treats can trigger a migraine.

The reason why might surprise you. For many people, it’s not high blood sugar that acts as a migraine trigger, but rather hypoglycemia, which occurs when your blood sugar levels drop below 70 mg/dL. Hypoglycemia can occur when you go too long without eating, but it also can follow the consumption of high-sugar foods. Called reactive hypoglycemia, this happens when blood sugar spikes and your body produces high levels of insulin in response, which then causes a dramatic drop in blood sugar levels. That’s one reason candy can be a migraine trigger.

What if it’s too late, because you already raided the kids’ plastic pumpkins? To recover, Healthline suggests drinking water, eating protein-packed foods with no added sugar, and doing some low-impact exercise.

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Do be aware of other migraine food triggers.

Peanuts. Doughnuts. Baked goods. Cheese and meat platters. Pizza. Chili. Hotdogs.

All these foods are likely to make an appearance at Halloween or fall-themed celebrations, but they also can trigger migraine attacks in some people.

Do you know what, if any, food-related migraine triggers you have? If you’re not sure, try tracking your attacks for a few months with the CeCe migraine management app. This free, intuitive app helps you identify trends and patterns in your migraine attacks, so you can see if there’s any connection between what you eat and when an attack begins.

Remember that skipping meals can trigger migraine attacks as well. Eat a healthy snack or light meal before you head out to a celebration, so you know you’ll be OK even if there’s not much food you can safely eat.

Do lean on your support network.

It’s Halloween night — and you feel the first signs of a migraine attack coming on. Now, the guilt strikes. How will you be able to take your children trick-or-treating? Or even hand out candy? Your next-door neighbors invited you to come sit around the firepit later, but all you want to do is lie down in a dim room.

Remember: It’s OK to say no. And it’s OK to ask for help. Tell your neighbors you’ll see them another time. Send the kids out with their friends’ parents. Put a bowl of candy out on the porch — it’s OK if it all disappears. When you live with migraine, it’s important to do what’s best for you.

Do go easy on alcohol.

Whether it’s a cold beer or a creepy cocktail, there are plenty of invitations to imbibe at Halloween. Unfortunately, alcohol is a common migraine trigger. Red wine is the drink most likely to cause an attack. White wine, champagne/sparkling wine and dark liquors are also problematic.

Interestingly, one research team found that alcohol was an inconsistent trigger for migraine, which “suggests that alcoholic beverages acting as a singular trigger is insufficient and may depend on a fluctuating trigger threshold.” In other words, alcohol may only act as a migraine trigger if other factors — such as weather, stress or lack of sleep — have already predisposed you to having an attack. So practice good headache hygiene, and you may be able to have a celebratory drink without bad consequences.

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Don’t step inside the haunted house.

Haunted attractions keep getting scarier and more sophisticated. Some include elements that have the potential to trigger migraine, such as:

  • Strobe lights or flickering lights
  • Fog machines
  • Loud sounds
  • Strong odors, such as chainsaw exhaust or musty smells

For this reason, you may want to skip the haunted house this season. What if you just love a good scare? Ask the organizers about possible triggers, such as flashing lights, or consider an open-air haunted trail instead of an enclosed space.

Do make sleep a priority.

You stay up late watching killer clowns and demonic dolls… and then you can’t fall asleep until after midnight. Beware: Lack of sleep is a known migraine trigger.

“In fact, some studies support the evidence that migraineurs have worse sleep quality than non-migraineurs, that self-reported poor sleep quality is associated with increased frequency of attacks or chronification of migraine, and that preventive migraine treatments might improve the quality of sleep,” one wide-ranging review of studies found. Researchers don’t yet know exactly how or why sleep and migraine are linked; does migraine cause sleep problems, or do sleep problems trigger migraine?

Regardless, it’s important to stick to a regular sleep schedule, as best you can, and try to sleep for 8 hours. That means skipping the late-night Halloween horror show.

Read more: How Can You Get Good Sleep When You Have Migraine?

Don’t neglect your preventive migraine treatments.

Autumn is a hectic time of year. Not only are there Halloween festivities, but the holiday season is coming on fast. Between Q4 work deadlines, school and family obligations, and other commitments, your to-do list is growing out of control.

Amid all this stress, take time for self-care. Crucially, you need to set aside 20 minutes every day to use the PREVENT setting on your CEFALY. With compliant daily use, the PREVENT setting is clinically proven to reduce the frequency of migraine days, migraine pain severity, and acute drug intake.

Haven’t tried CEFALY yet? Consider buying the CEFALY DUAL Enhanced + Electrodes bundle, which can save you money and get you set up for months of migraine treatment.

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Onderwater GLJ, van Oosterhout WPJ, Schoonman GG, Ferrari MD, Terwindt GM. Alcoholic beverages as trigger factor and the effect on alcohol consumption behavior in patients with migraine . Eur J Neurol. doi: 10.1111/ene.13861

Tiseo C., Vacca A., Felbush A. et al. Migraine and sleep disorders: a systematic review. J Headache Pain 21, 126 (2020).

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