Living Well: What is a migraine hangover?

Here we are at Friday again and I am feeling a little guilty for sleeping in so late. I had a wicked migraine last night that required taking medication. This was the first bad migraine in a long while. And the medication process isn’t fun. Nor is it cheap. You shoot it up your nose. And it hurts. I imagine this is what coke feels like, though I’ve never used coke.

The great thing about the drug is the relief is almost instant. The worst part of about the migraine is the next day. You’re left in this sort of fog where nothing feels real. The world around you is fuzzy and hazy. Things are more complicated than they should be. Tasks are harder then they should be to complete. If I can explain it so you’d understand, it’s like being hungover but without having had any alcohol the night before.

Sometimes the migraine hangover lasts a few hours. Sometimes it can last a few weeks. The longest migraine I had was about three weeks back in 2010. It was brutal and I wound up in the hospital from it.

I hope you’re not eating lunch because this story is going to get gruesome.

My worst migraine experience – EVER

One of my favorite performers at the time, Loreena McKennitt, was performing in Calgary which is a three hour drive away from Edmonton. My faithful friend Montana, thought the show sounded like fun. Together with her partner, Alan, we drove down to Calgary on the day of the show and checked into the Travel Lodge.

We didn’t have much time to explore the lodge. We basically had enough time to grab some grub and head out to the show. Montana and Alan had to stay in Calgary the next day and I was going to take the bus home back to Edmonton. No problem right? It’s something I had done plenty of times before being a single person.

Oh, how wrong I was.

The show was amazing. But unfortunately, they used that fake smoke during the show and it caused an almost instant migraine. Smoke had always been a trigger – same with strong chemical smells and perfumes. I mean, this is why I’m off work now. Migraines are debilitating. The worst part is the nausea that comes with it. Once you have it, the only thing that works is sleeping it off.

I took two advil when we got back to the hotel that night. I just wanted to crawl into bed. But then I saw what looked like a baby cockroach crawling across the floor of the room – and that was a no for me. I did wind up grabbing a few hours of sleep on top of the bed. There was no way I was crawling INSIDE the bed. Montana told me her room was fine. Did I mention that karma hates me this way?

I remember telling this to the hotel manager and he looked at me like I had grown two heads. He didn’t care.

Anyway, Montana and I said our goodbyes at the bus stop and all was well. At least it was until the migraine hit. I didn’t have any gravol with me, and ran to the bathroom as quickly as I could leaving my bags in my seat. At this point, I didn’t care.

The long ride home

I was so sick – every time I opened my eyes I threw up. There was I, sitting and crying on the bathroom floor of a moving bus trying to sleep. I finally asked the bus driver if it was okay if I just stayed in the bathroom. Sorry, anyone who needed to use the facilities that day. But I thought I was having a stroke.

After a four hour bus ride and a short cab ride, I finally made it home. I didn’t even unpack or lock my door. I just threw my bag down, headed to the bathroom and grabbed a bucket. I puked again. I climbed into my bed. Every time I opened my eyes – well – you guessed it.

Twelve hours later, same story. I called my doctors office asking what to do and she said to call for an ambulance. I had migraines all my life but never like this. I legitimately thought I was dying. I couldn’t open my eyes long enough to call 911. I texted Montana and begged her to call an ambulance for me.

Luckily, the ambulance showed up shortly after. They lifted me into stretcher. I don’t even remember locking my door but I asked to grab my purse and jacket. So I must have.

What the ER did for me

I felt a little validated when they handed me a bucket in the ambulance and I threw up right in front of them. Like I said, every time I opened my eyes.

The ER was packed that night. I wound up getting an IV and was placed onto a stretcher near the elevator. Like really? There was no rest for the wicked.

I was starting to feel a little more human and asked the doctor if I could go home and sleep it off. They gave me some pain medications to take with me. And by the next morning, I was feeling a lot better.

The Migraine Hangover

A migraine hangover will vary from person to person. For me, it just felt like I was in a constant fog. I’m really glad that I wasn’t working at the time. I mostly felt tired, like I wanted to sleep all day. I was dehydrated and my entire body ached.

What I find helps is to make sure to drink plenty of water. If you’re lacking in magnesium, take your daily supplements. And make sure to get plenty of sleep. This is the crucial part of migraine care.

If you want to learn more about migraine care, visit this article.


If you have migraines and you travel — TAKE YOUR MEDICATIONS WITH YOU! This includes whatever you use for pain management, some anti-nausea pills and some ginger ale for the queasy stomach. Learn from my mistakes. If you start to vomit uncontrollably, call your medical provider to find out what you should do – or head to the nearest emergency room.

Chronic Pain Management

2 Comments Add yours

  1. lanie belluz says:

    I just started getting these this past year. I think for me they start out being a sinus infection that triggers the migraine. For me about the only thing that cures it is sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wendy says:

    Yes the migraines have been brutal this week due to stress and lack sleep. Catch 22. If you dont sleep migraine hits. Which results in only being able to sleep.


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