Many people experience headache disorders, often due to triggers related to their age, gender, health, and overall lifestyle. College students are no different. In fact, these young and seemingly healthy individuals often lead lifestyles that put them at a very high risk for headache disorders.

The most common type of headache experienced by college students is a tension-type headache. A tension-type headache causes non-throbbing, frequently bilateral pain. The underlying cause of a tension-type headache is likely due to chemical and neuronal imbalances in the brain and may be related to muscle tightening in the back of the neck and/or scalp. It is no surprise that tension-type headache occurs frequently in the college population. Students spend much of their time in straining positions, whether it be sitting in uncomfortable lecture hall seats or hunching over tables trying to catch up on reading assignments.

Moreover, college students are no strangers to the other common triggers of tension-type headache, including temporary stress, fatigue, and anxiety. From cramming for finals to worrying over grad school applications, from late-night parties to early morning hangovers, from straining to read endless pages of small-print textbooks to staring at a computer screen for hours a time, college students need to know how to avoid the headaches that can easily occur as a result of their lifestyle.

The National Headache Foundation (NHF) has prepared a list of tips for the collegians out there to make it through the best four (or more) years of their life with fewer headaches:

  • Studying for long periods of time can cause eyestrain. Take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest!
  • Invest in an ergonomic chair. Uncomfortable seating can cause neck and back pain that may lead to tension-type headache.
  • When it comes to alcohol, always drink in moderation, and with plenty of water in between drinks, to avoid hangover headaches in the morning. If hangovers do occur, treat with hydration and foods high in fructose (tomato juice, honey).
  • If you are trying to stay awake to study, drink coffee only in moderation. Caffeine withdrawal can be a common source of headache for avid coffee drinkers.
  • Though college students don’t always operate on a regular schedule, try not to vary your meal and sleep schedules too much. Irregular sleep cycles and missing or delaying meals can both trigger headaches.
  • Practice relaxation and biofeedback techniques to help relieve the daily stress and anxiety of college life.

Taking these precautions may help avoid headaches.