Welcome to 2022! Here’s to hoping that you and yours all enjoyed a happy holiday season to close out 2021. However, we also know that for many people the bright holiday celebrations might have been accompanied by the dark clouds of headaches and migraines. Even if they didn’t completely ruin your holiday, they probably made it a lot less enjoyable.

Tracking down the causes of your headaches is the first step to getting good treatment. Here are five common reasons why headaches often increase over the holiday season.

woman with blue blouse holds her head due to a holiday migraine headacheStress

Stress is one of the most common causes of increased headaches during the holiday season. The holiday season is inherently stressful. You have friends and/or family visiting, and you want to make sure everything is prepared for their visits. This means cooking, cleaning, and shopping to make sure you’re ready to be a good host. Depending on the guests, you might also spend a lot of time catering to their needs.

You also have to do all the other preparations for the holidays, such as shopping, wrapping, decorating, and it all has to be done on time.

Stress can translate into headaches in many ways, but one of the key pathways is your jaw. Jaw clenching and grinding is a common response to stress. When you do this, it can aggravate your temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ). TMJ contributes to both tension headaches and migraines.

Unaccustomed Work

Holidays often come with unaccustomed types of work for many people. We’ve mentioned above the food preparation for guests, which can often be labor-intensive festive dishes that you only make once a year. Chopping, shaping, pressing, and rolling can all be a strain on you, not to mention carrying the heavy trays of food to the table.

In addition, there are other types of work that we only do once a year. Hauling out and setting up special holiday decorations can be heavy work. It might not only require heavy lifting, it might cause you to stretch and strain in unusual ways. Add to this the long wrapping sessions where you sit on the ground, laying out presents and bending over while trying to fold the wrapping over them nicely.

TMJ can be a culprit here, too, linking that unexpected work to your headaches. The jaw is an important platform for your muscles, and when it’s not properly balanced, it can lead to extra strain that translates into tension headaches or migraines.

Changed Sleep Patterns

The holidays are also infamous for disrupting our sleep patterns. New Year’s Eve celebrations essentially call for staying up until midnight, which is very late for many people. But there are many other nights you might stay up late. Christmas, for example, you might wait until the kids are soundly asleep before bringing out presents, and any other night when you have company, you could stay up late to spend time with them.

On the other hand, you might also be getting too much sleep over the holidays. If you’re the kind of person who takes weeks off between Christmas and New Year’s, you might find yourself sleeping much longer than you do on most days. While this can feel good at first, it might also lead to headaches.

Different Foods

Whether you’re cooking them or not, you probably eat a lot of foods around the holidays that you don’t eat any other time of year. You might also eat a lot more of certain foods than you do at other times. This can lead to headaches in many ways.

First, there’s the possibility that some of the foods are migraine triggers for you. There are many common migraine triggers in food, and it’s a good idea to try to track them down with a migraine diary that lets you identify what you’re eating and how that corresponds to migraine attacks.

Tyramine is a common headache trigger in many foods. Tyramine is a neurotransmitter that the body uses to regulate blood pressure, but it’s also found in foods, such as cheese, preserved meats, and pickles. If you’re eating meals at the snack trays, you might be getting large amounts of tyramine, which might lead to headaches or even a fluttering heart.

Food can also trigger headaches if it requires unusual jaw motions. If the food is tough and hard to chew, or if it makes you open your mouth wide to eat, it might trigger TMJ-related headaches.


For many of us, the holidays mean that we’re drinking more. Consuming more alcohol can lead to more headaches. Some people get headaches directly from alcohol, especially if they don’t drink at other times of year. Other people get headaches from the secondary effects of alcohol, such as dehydration or disturbed sleep.

Try to avoid alcohol headaches by drinking smart. Don’t overdo it on the alcohol too much–intersperse alcoholic drinks with water or other hydrating beverages. Accompany alcohol with food. Make sure you don’t drink too close to bedtime.

Fewer Headaches in the Coming Year

If you felt that your headaches reduced your enjoyment of the holidays, you might be considering how you could have fewer of them this coming year. At Smile Columbia Dentistry, we can help you achieve that goal if your headaches were TMJ-related.

To talk to a TMJ dentist about your headaches, please call (803) 781-9090 or use our online contact form today to request an appointment at Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC.