I am writing this post in case it can help someone with migraines. Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. See a doctor. You know the drill. I am just some random person on the internet, most likely, someone you have never met. For all you know, I am a Russian bot.
I have had migraines for approximately 30 years. My main triggers are overexhaustion (either muscle exhaustion or sleep deprivation), bright sunlight, and overhunger. All three together are usually a recipe for disaster. I do not have seasonal affective disorder–the clouds of Western Washington State were a thing of beauty for me.
Over time, I frustratingly developed a new pattern to my migraines–being woken up in the morning by a migraine already at crushing intensity. If I catch a migraine in its prodrome phase or early enough, I can often head it off. But, it is already too late for that when I wake up with one. The only possible correlation I could identify was perhaps the pillow? I knew that whenever I stayed in a hotel or something, I was at high risk. Maybe that accounted for the increased frequency at home, too? I bought several pillows to try, to no avail. Correlation did not equal cause, here.
One of the worst parts of this new pattern was the fact that the wake-up-migraines were hitting a high percentage of weekend mornings. At the time that the pattern was emerging, I was a medical transcriptionist. One day, I was transcribing a report for a doctor who had seen a woman complaining of waking up with migraines only on the weekends. I was so excited. I held my breath, waiting to hear the doctor’s advice to this patient.
She must be doing something differently. Drinking more alcohol those nights?
My heart sank, for her and for me.
At least I knew I was not the only one with migraines that occurred more frequently on weekend mornings.
Years passed. Years. So many migraines.
One day, I saw a meme on Facebook quoting Hippocrates as saying “Before you heal someone, ask if he is willing to give up the things that make him sick.” “Yes! Yes, just tell me what they are,” I mentally screamed. I don’t drink alcohol, caffeine, or soda. I don’t smoke. I do eat too many processed carbs including sugar and chocolate. That would take significant effort to change (I have tried before, so I know). But, if I had some high percentage assurance that making that change would do it for me (not some doctor telling me that would help my overall health because that is the rule for every illness and every person, or some random internet blogger with no medical training spouting their sure knowledge), I would do it. I would do whatever it took.
Last November, soon after seeing that meme, I was sitting in an all-day session for continuing legal education workshops (CLEs). The prodrome started. I picked up my bag to look for medicine. Nothing. I had switched bags recently. Frantically, knowing what was coming, I searched the bag. Nothing but a Tootsie Roll Pop. (Don’t judge.) Dejectedly and not caring that I was in a lecture audience, I put the Tootsie Roll Pop in my mouth. The prodrome stopped.
As soon as I got home I googled “migraine hypoglycemia.” There it was. One article. It described the nauseous feeling that is part of my prodrome. It mentioned that they can develop overnight as blood sugar falls while sleeping and recommended eating something high in fiber (to minimize the blood sugar swings) right before bed. All of a sudden, I recalled that one of my known triggers was being overly hungry, and it suddenly made sense why going for a walk (still without eating) in the fresh air (my cure-all for everything) often made my migraines worse when I woke up with one. And, it could possibly explain the weekend phenomenon: I am always sleep deprived during the week because there is always more that I have to do and want to do in a day than I can possibly do. But, on weekends, I do allow myself to sleep in a tiny bit, which equals more hours without food.
That did it. I still get migraines. Migraines are complicated creatures. During Hurricane Florence, the only reason I did not go to the emergency room was because I could not bear the thought of the bright lights in the waiting room. But, it has been four full months now, and I can definitely say that my migraines-on-waking are basically under control. I cannot tell you how huge this is.
I also realize that hypoglycemic blood sugar swings are exacerbated by processed carbs. So, while not making drastic changes, I am keeping that in mind as I consciously make food choices.
This post is for anyone out there who is googling “migraines on weekends” or “migraine when I wake up.” I’m not promising anything, but reading about that one possible connection between migraines and hypoglycemia changed my life.
My system right now (just for ideas for you — do whatever works):
In the morning, I pour boiling water over 1/4 cup of wheat berries/grains in a Thermos-type mug with a lid. At night, I drain the wheat (I use plastic embroidery grid that I have cut to the size of the mug), transfer to a bowl, and, currently, I am adding some fabulous orange-pineapple-cherry marmalade and a cut-up strawberry for a delicious taste. It is also fine plain, of course. I eat it while I am watching a few minutes of Netflix or reading a book while I wind down for bed. I have a “rescue” Larabar by my bed if I wake up feeling “off,” either in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. Usually, I just take a single bite and fall back to sleep or that bite gives me time to get a proper breakfast. I save the rest of the Larabar without problem. That’s it. That is my regimen that is working. When I travel, I just take some granola or packets of Cream of Wheat for the snack right before bed rather than worrying about soaking wheat berries during the day.