Top 10 common headache triggers

It’s not just loud music, a tight deadline or an impending visit from your in-laws.

1 – Anxiety

Stress can take a toll on all of us. Breathe, relax and take a stroll.

2 – Glare

Brightness from your computer screen, sunlight or overhead lights can make things painful. Turn it down and try adding a desk lamp.

3 – Noise

It’s not just loud, repetitive sounds. Even lower-level continuous noise can hurt. Calming music and headphones may help.

4 – Eating/sleeping patterns

Eat when you’re hungry. Sleep enough (not too much or too little), and don’t sleep in an odd position in a cold room – it can make your muscles spasm.

5 – Medication

Some prescription medications may have the potential to trigger a headache. If you notice an increase, talk to your doctor.

6 – Physical Activity

Take it easy in the gym. Pushing too hard can result in an exertional headache from the swelling of blood vessels in your head, neck and scalp.

7 – Lack of physical activity

Over-exertion can increase your risk for headaches but staying sedentary doesn't help either. Remember, moderation is key.

8 – Posture

Mum was right all along. Sit up straight to keep blood flowing and move around when you can, especially if you spend a long time at a desk.

9 – Hormones

When estrogen levels drop (especially right before your period), you may be more likely to get a headache. Keep track of your cycle and plan when you can.

10 – Food sensitivities

Food and drink release neurotransmitters, which can cause headaches in some people. Triggers include caffeine, chocolate and, you guessed it, alcohol.


Which headache do I have? (Types of Headache)

1. Tension

A Tension-Type, or ‘stress headache’ is the most common type. Symptoms can last hours or days with a tight, constant pressure on the head, neck, or forehead. Common causes are stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, jaw clenching and missed meals.

2. Sinus

Sinus headache pain feels like pressure through the front of the face, ears, and teeth and can be caused by a sinus infection or allergies. Symptoms can include a runny nose, nasal congestion, facial pressure, and nausea. You can try to relieve the pain by taking a hot shower, using nasal saline drops, drinking plenty of fluids or taking a pain reliever.

3. Migraine

A migraine is a severe headache that can last anywhere between 4 and 72 hours, if left untreated. Symptoms include throbbing localized pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. Common triggers include stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, bright/flashing lights, overhydration, dehydration, lack of food, lack of sleep, and certain dietary substances. For more information on migraines, click here. If you think you're experiencing migraines talk to your doctor, this type of headache requires medical oversight.

4. Cluster

A cluster headache is more common in those who smoke or drink and is considered the most severe type of headache. They occur in "cluster periods" ranging from every other day to 8 times a day and can last from 15 minutes to three hours. Symptoms can include a stabbing pain behind or around the eye, nasal congestion, tearing, a running nose, facial swelling and constriction of the pupils. If you think you're experiencing cluster headaches talk to your doctor, this type of headache requires medical oversight.


How do I ease a headache?

Just like there are many different types of headaches, there are many different ways to help prevent and relieve them.

Prevent a headache

One of the most common causes of a headache is stress. Try this simple therapeutic breathing exercise to prevent a stress headache:

  • Sit

    Sit or lie down comfortably and rest your hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage.

  • Breathe

    Slowly breathe in through your nose, focusing on your stomach expanding up and out as your lungs fill.

  • Exhale

    Exhale slowly through your mouth, letting your stomach empty and fall.

  • Repeat

    Repeat 10 to 20 times, as needed.


Headache relief

  • Relax with a hot bath or shower

    Ease your muscles to help relieve tension and sinus headaches.

  • Take a stroll outside

    Fresh air and increasing blood flow can go a long way to relieve a headache, especially if it removes you from things like strong smells or harsh lighting.

  • Get a good night’s sleep

    Inconsistent sleep patterns can lead to stress, fatigue, and anxiety—
    all common cause of headaches. If you feel you aren't getting enough sleep, try changing your pillows, sleep positions or even the side of the bed you sleep on.

  • Find an effective pain relief

    The active ingredient in TYLENOL® is paracetamol, an effective pain reliever that can help ease headaches. Always remember to read the label.



The information on this page is intended solely as a general education aid and is not intended as medical or healthcare advice, to be used for medical diagnosise or treatment for any individual problem or as a substitute for professional advice from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your unique facts. You should always talk to your healthcare professional for all health-related matters and before starting any new treatment.