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Migraines & headaches health centre

Migraine hangover

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

When a migraine hits, it can be debilitating. You know you have to act fast, take medication and rest as soon as you feel a migraine coming on.

But when the intense pain has gone you are left with a sort of migraine hangover known as postdrome. It can last for a day or even longer.

Post pain feeling

Alison from Buckingham has migraines, and says: "I tend to feel very washed out and find it hard to take part in normal life. Conversations with people in particular are very difficult as you feel almost like you are not really there and can't concentrate."

"Often patients will compare the feelings of the postdrome phase to a hangover. They may experience a dull headache, lethargy and sometimes nausea," says Dr Andrew Dowson from King's College London Hospital and the head of the Medical Advisory Board at Migraine Action.

Rachel, from Loughborough has migraines, and says: "I feel so very tired and drained for about 2 to 3 days. I am often confused and not quite with it, often struggling to return to normal activities. Most importantly I just want to sleep."

So how do you handle it?

You may be desperate to get back up to speed and get on with your life as soon as the pain's gone, but you need to take time to recuperate from your migraine. Rushing back into life at full pelt when you aren't ready is counter-productive.

"The best thing for me is to relax, and try not to do anything strenuous," says Rachel. "I often find if I sit in the garden, out of sunlight, I can relax as well as getting some fresh air. I drink plenty of water and eat something sugary to get my blood sugar levels back up."

Dr Dowson says: "It is very important for the patient to rehydrate. Sufferers should also try to take in extra calories to help their body receive the energy it needs to recover. Fast sugars are OK but slow burning calorie food is best, like porridge. It is also important to sleep to help the patient recover fully."

Alison says: "I've learnt over the years that 'pacing' is very important to the recovery process and so I do now try and take a bit more care of myself in the 24 hours after having a bad bout of a migraine."

She adds: "I will usually rest and I try and eat to get my blood sugar stabilised. A good starchy food like potatoes works for me, and some protein rich eggs or quinoa. I also crave sugar so will probably drink some sugary drinks."

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