Caffeine Withdrawal With Migraine and Headache Disorders

Caffeine Withdrawal With Migraine and Headache Disorders

Written by Kerrie Smyres on 5th Apr 2016

If you’ve seen a doctor for migraine or another headache disorder, you’ve probably been told to reduce the amount of caffeine that you drink or eliminate it entirely. Unfortunately, the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, which have a lot in common with those of migraine and other headache disorders, can be difficult to bear. The caffeine-withdrawal headache gets the most attention, but other symptoms include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Impaired concentration
  • Difficulty working
  • Low energy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches and stiffness

The headache pain usually begins within 18 hours of stopping caffeine and reaches it’s peak pain about three to six hours after it begins. Most people describe the pain as moderate to severe in intensity (even those who have years of experience with migraine). Drinking a small amount of caffeine relieves the immediate pain within an hour and the headache stop happening within a week of discontinuing caffeine consumption.

Unless you can schedule in a week of severe headaches, you’re best off reducing your caffeine intake slowly. The best approach depends on how much caffeine you’re consuming when you decide to stop. If you only have one cup of caffeine a day, you can slowly reduce the amount you drink each day over two weeks. At the end of the first week, drink half what you did at the start of the week; after the last day of the second week, stop drinking the caffeinated beverage altogether. For higher levels of caffeine try reducing the total amount by a third each week for three weeks. If you drink a ton of caffeine, reducing the amount by a quarter each week for four weeks might be better for you.

If you develop unbearable caffeine withdrawal symptoms while you’re weaning off, you’ll probably need just a small amount—maybe a tablespoon—of a caffeinated drink to stop the symptoms. 

Light can have as much of an impact on how you feel as caffeine (or lack thereof). Learn more by downloading our free guide.


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