When a migraine hits, you just want to go home and rest.

But what if your home is actually making your migraine attacks worse?

It’s possible. A house that’s highly fragranced, dusty or dirty, too bright or pervaded by hidden chemicals could trigger or exacerbate a migraine. Use these tips to plan a migraine-friendly home makeover.

Choose furnishings and materials that are VOC-free

New furniture, paint and flooring often contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals which are off-gassed into your home’s air over time. These VOCs can be hard to detect without a high-quality air quality sensor. One rule of thumb is that if something “smells new,” it’s likely to be VOCs. However, VOCs may persist long after the smell is gone.

Scientists are still investigating the link between fragrances/VOCs and migraine. One study found that, when inhaled, certain chemicals activate TRPA1 channels in trigeminal nerve endings in the airway, triggering a reaction that may cause a migraine attack.[i]

Fortunately, it’s possible to find low- and no-VOC elements for your home. “VOCs plummet when you are using solid wood instead of composite furniture, sourcing fabrics without chemical stain repellents, and making it a practice to add recycled or vintage pieces (which off-gassed long ago) to a design plan,” Architectural Digest advises.[ii]

Belinda Den Ouden found that glass, stone and steel worked well in her migraine-friendly home design, as was vintage wood. For her kitchen,
she told The Guardian, she chose second-hand restaurant equipment and added vintage furniture “to create a budget-friendly, eco-friendly, non-toxic, scent-free kitchen.”

Control light and brightness

Den Ouden painted her home shades of dark blue and charcoal. Not only does the darkness soothe her during a migraine attack, but it’s an exciting choice for design: “The darkness is so very embracing to be in. … I love art, I love paintings and I saw the resemblance to 17th-century painters. The dark makes objects stand out so beautifully and I can really enjoy that.”

Lighting, too, makes a difference. Blue-tinged or flickering lights can exacerbate migraine photosensitivity. The best choice is “soft, warm white lights” in the 2,700 Kelvin range, the National Headache Institute advises.[iii] Many people with migraine like fairy lights, softly glowing salt lamps, and green migraine lamps.

Design your house to be easier to clean

Allergens can be migraine triggers.[iv] So can perfumed cleaning products and bleach.[v] Reduce the presence of both by streamlining your home décor and your cleaning process:

  • Use air purifiers, and replace your home’s air filters frequently.
  • Replace dust-trapping carpet with hard surfaces.
  • Switching to fragrance-free, migraine-friendly cleaning products.
  • Get a Roomba or other programmable vacuuming robot.
  • Declutter surfaces, so they’re easier to keep clean.
  • Wash or replace pillows to reduce allergens.
  • Have everyone remove their shoes at the door.

Learn more: How To Clean Your House Effectively Without Triggering A Migraine

Give your bedroom a makeover

For many people, interrupted or insufficient sleep can trigger migraine attacks.[vi] If you suffer from insomnia or have an irregular sleep schedule, upgrading your bedroom may help. Maybe it’s time to upgrade your mattress, switch to a pillow with more support, or buy high-quality linens that invite you to rest.

It’s worth investing in blackout curtains or shades for your bedroom, or any room you use as a refuge when you have a migraine attack. You also can make your bedroom feel more peaceful: Declutter, change the lighting and consider removing the TV and other screens.

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

One more tip: Always keep your migraine toolkit well-stocked and close at hand. Be sure to keep your CEFALY device charged and close at hand for your daily PREVENT session, as well as ACUTE sessions as needed.

[i] Jordt SE. Trigeminal TRPs and the scent of pain. Pain. 2011;152(1):4-5. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2010.10.026

[ii] https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/what-is-off-gassing

[iii] https://nationalheadacheinstitute.com/blog/lighting-sensitivity-migraines/

[iv] https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/migraine-triggers-allergies

[v] Silva-Néto R, Peres M, Valença M. Odorant substances that trigger headaches in migraine patients. Cephalalgia. 2014;34(1):14-21. doi:10.1177/0333102413495969

[vi] Kelman L, Rains JC. Headache and sleep: examination of sleep patterns and complaints in a large clinical sample of migraineurs. Headache. 2005 Jul-Aug;45(7):904-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2005.05159.x. PMID: 15985108.