U.S. Public Health Service
For headaches caused by hunger and fatigue, eating and sleeping can help. To prevent future headaches, it is wise to eat frequent, small meals that contain protein and to stick to a regular sleep schedule.
Eat and sleep to relieve headaches
- Eat a meal containing protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Fruit and fruit juice, especially orange juice, can help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Fiber can reduce constipation, which causes some headaches. Fiber also helps to keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Take a nap or go to bed early. Even an extra ten minutes of sleep can help.
- Repeat as needed.
Why It Works
Scientists are not entirely sure why eating and sleeping helps to reduce headaches. When blood sugar is low, nerve pathways in the brain are stimulated, causing headaches. It is also known that the same neurotransmitters in the brain that are associated with sleeping and waking – serotonin and norepinephrine – are also connected to headaches.
Don’t use foods that contain refined sugar, such as candy bars or cookies, to raise blood sugar. These foods will only raise blood sugar temporarily and then cause it to plummet again, possibly resulting in another headache. If you take a nap, be careful to keep it short or early in the day, so that you don’t have insomnia at night. Try to keep sleep routines stable, going to bed at the same time every day and getting up at the same time every day. Sleeping late on weekends can actually cause a headache—the National Headache Foundation calls these weekend headaches.