You’ve taken modafinil and have been powering through your work for the past four hours very efficiently.
All was going great until you started to feel an ache at the base of your neck and behind your eyes.
For the next three hours, the headache grew in intensity until it started to affect your ability to work.
You get up and go for a walk, drink a bottle of water, and spend a few minutes massaging your temples, but nothing seems to work.
This is a problem experienced all too often by people taking modafinil. It’s one of the most common side effects of the drug… but it doesn’t need to be.
There are a few tips and tricks you can employ to avoid and cure the headaches induced by modafinil.
Here’s how it works.
Modafinil Before the Headache
Modafinil doesn’t usually produce a headache for the first few hours of use.
It’s during the peak hours— about two hours after ingestion— that modafinil has the most robust benefits.
People take it to increase their work capacity. It delays the onset of fatigue for about 15 hours.
Without any fatigue, we’re left to work as hard and as long as we want on our projects. It also boosts our creativity and ability to focus on the task at hand, further benefiting our work ethic and productivity.
This makes it highly desirable among students, business professionals, entrepreneurs, pilots, truck drivers, and factory workers performing tedious and long-duration tasks at work.
It’s these benefits that make it worth a headache later for many people taking the drug.
We’re here to tell you that a headache doesn’t need to happen, you can get the benefits of modafinil without a headache later!
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Why Modafinil Causes Headaches & How to Fix it
In order to talk about how to prevent or cure modafinil-induced headaches, we need to first talk about why this popular smart drug causes headaches in the first place.
Perhaps the most common cause of headaches is dehydration.
This is true whether you’re taking modafinil or not. In fact, most headaches are due to some degree of dehydration.
Modafinil can cause us to become dehydrated by allowing us to focus so intently on our work that we forget to drink enough water throughout the day.
This may sound silly, but it’s very common among modafinil users.
Another way modafinil causes dehydration is through the kidneys as they try to eliminate the drug from our bloodstream.
Whenever we take medications, our body gets to work eliminating it. It does this through the help of the liver and the kidneys.
The liver converts the modafinil into an inactive metabolite, where it then travels to the kidneys to get filtered out of the body.
Whenever we take a medication, the kidney ramps up its filtration rate, pushing more water out of the body in the hopes of dragging the modafinil metabolites along with it.
This causes us to urinate more often as the effects of modafinil start to wind down (signifying that there are now more inactive metabolites of modafinil in the bloodstream). This also causes us to lose water, which can make us dehydrated if it’s not replaced.
How To Prevent Dehydration Headaches On Modafinil
A) Drink More Water
The most obvious way of preventing dehydration headaches of any kind is to drink more water.
This may sound simple, but there are some additional challenges to overcome.
The main problem is that when we’re under the effects of modafinil, anything outside of the immediate task we’re working on seems unimportant, including drinking water. Most users need to make a conscious effort to drink enough water throughout the day to avoid getting a headache.
Some people set a timer on their watch or smartphone that reminds them to stop what they are doing for 10 seconds and take a drink of water. You can set this to go off every hour, or every 30 minutes depending on your own personal preference.
The average person needs about 2 L of water every day.
This number goes up when exercising or taking medications of caffeine.
For every 200 mg tablet you take of modafinil, you should add 1L of water to your daily intake.
Therefore, someone taking 200 mg modafinil per day should also drink at least 3 L of water.
The easiest way to measure this is to buy a water bottle with a specific capacity, either 1 L, 2 L, or 3 L. You can then easily calculate how much water you’ve consumed during the day by adding it up.
B) Add Salt To Your Water
Another method some people use is to add a pinch of salt to their water bottle.
The salt helps to retain water in the bloodstream, making it slightly more difficult for the kidneys to flush water out of the body. This can help to reduce the amount lost throughout the day.
How To Cure Dehydration Headaches
It’s not too difficult to prevent dehydration headaches when taking modafinil if you can remember to drink enough water, but how do you cure a headache once it’s already started?
A) Drink Water Immediately
As soon as you start to feel a headache coming on, stop what you’re doing and go and drink water. Don’t drown yourself, but have a few big gulps from your water bottle.
This isn’t going to give you immediate relief of a headache but can reverse it over the course of about one hour, especially if you catch it early.
B) Replenish Your Electrolytes
Electrolytes can also help reverse dehydration headaches associated with modafinil. Things like Powerade or Gatorade are excellent electrolyte drinks you can use to reduce the impact of your headache.
This works because dehydration changes the balance of electrolytes in the body, which are necessary for us to function.
When our electrolytes are depleted, it can give us a headache.
The type of stimulation caused by modafinil is specific to a part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
This is one of 2 halves the nervous system can be split into. The other half is called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
The SNS controls our fight or flight response. It’s designed to cause changes to our body to help us get away or protect ourselves from danger.
Our body isn’t designed to be in SNS activation for too long. It usually comes in bursts lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, followed by an activation of the opposite side of the nervous system, the PNS, which helps us return to normal and repair any damage to the body.
Modafinil stimulates the SNS for up to 22 hours, which can cause adverse side effects including headaches.
Therefore, the best way to prevent it is to ensure our SNS doesn’t become overactivated while taking modafinil.
How To Prevent & Cure Overstimulation Headaches On Modafinil
The best way to avoid overstimulation and headaches is to do things that help you relax and calm down while on modafinil.
Often, people who are overstimulated on modafinil will develop bouts of anxiety, followed by periods of migraines or headaches. Avoiding symptoms while in the anxiety stage can dramatically reduce the chances of developing overstimulation headaches.
A) Breathing Techniques
The best way to control the nervous system is through slowed, rhythmic breathing.
This allows you to take over the nervous system. You’re essentially turning down the SNS, and up the PNS, helping to prevent overstimulation.
To do this, all you need to do it spend 2 or 3 minutes breathing in slowly, and out even slower. Try counting to 5 on the in breaths, and ten on the out breaths.
This sounds like it wouldn’t do much, but it’s not a mysterious phenomenon by any means. If you want to know more about the power of breathing and the nervous system, check out Dr. Richard Gevirtz talk about it on Youtube.
B) Take Periodic Breaks To Relax And Walk Around
When under the influence of modafinil, it doesn’t take much for us to get so entrenched in our work that we forget about everything else. We can become so intense about what we’re doing that we actually stress ourselves out.
It’s important to take periodic breaks from time to time so that we can stop what we’re doing and return to reality for a moment.
Get up and walk around, get some water, go out for some fresh air, anything to break up the cycle for just a few minutes.
Then you can go back to what you were doing.
This small modification to your routine on modafinil has helped a lot of people avoid issues with overstimulation anxiety and headaches.
3. Nutrient Depletion (Magnesium)
Modafinil has a tendency of depleting certain nutrients, some of which can cause a headache to develop, especially magnesium.
We use magnesium in our body for over 300 different enzyme reactions. Many of these reactions take place in the brain.
This vital mineral is quickly depleted when we increase our brain activity and therefore increase the demand for magnesium.
This is further compounded by modafinil’s appetite suppressing effects, which makes it more likely that we skip meals and therefore avoid replenishing our magnesium stores while the drug takes effect.
This cause for headaches is more common in people who don’t supplement the mineral.
With repeated modafinil use, we can gradually deplete our magnesium stores, eventually resulting in the formation of headaches.
Magnesium deficiency headaches will generally come on gradually and come with a list of other side effects including fatigue, low immunity, anxiety, heart palpitations, muscle tension, and insomnia.
Many of modafinil side effects can be traced back to magnesium deficiencies.
How To Both Prevent & Cure Magnesium Deficiency Headaches Induced By Modafinil
The prevention and treatment for headaches caused by magnesium deficiencies are both the same— supplement magnesium in the diet.
You can get magnesium from nuts and seeds, as well as dark leafy green vegetables.
These are generally enough to avoid having any issues with depleted magnesium stores. However, supplemental versions also exist.
There are a few main types of magnesium supplement to consider:
Magnesium threonate is generally the preferred product to combine with modafinil because it has the best ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Supplying a source of magnesium easily accessible by the brain is going to produce the fastest benefits towards modafinil-induced magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium glycinate is the most common form of magnesium available in health food shops. This is because it has some of the highest bioavailability and is gentler on the digestive tract than other types (magnesium supplements sometimes causes digestive system discomfort, including diarrhea).
All you need to do is take a daily dose of magnesium preferably in the evening before bed.
The normal dose is usually around 400 mg of magnesium per day, but make sure you follow the label on the products you buy for best results.
4. Muscle Tension
Muscle tension is a major cause for headaches when taking modafinil.
It happens through some of the other points listed above including dehydration, and magnesium deficiency.
It can also do this through other side effects, causing an over-activation of the nerves controlling the muscles. It’s made worse by sitting all day, poor nutritional intake, and bad posture.
How To Prevent Muscle Tension Headaches
The best way to prevent headaches from muscle tension is to make sure you’re getting enough exercise and movement on a weekly basis. This includes stretching.
Having healthy muscles and joints is the simplest way of preventing aches and pains, and the resulting headaches they cause.
Try going to yoga or the gym 3 or 4 times per week. Join a boxing class or try something like CrossFit.
It doesn’t matter too much how you exercise, as long as you’re moving your muscles and joints often and follow up with a good stretch to help the muscles become more elastic and relaxed.
B) Work On Your Posture
One of the problems with being extra productive if you work in an office is the fact that you’re sitting down all day long.
If your posture isn’t perfect, it can cause stress on different areas of your body, causing pain and inflammation. Eventually, this will result in muscle tension and headaches.
Learn about how to maintain good posture. Keep your head straight, feet on the floor, and back aligned.
You may need to purchase a computer screen, laptop stand, or ergonomic desk chair to accomplish this, but it’s well worth the price if headaches are causing you problems.
How to Treat Muscle Tension Headaches
The easiest way to correct muscle tension headaches is to use a muscle relaxant.
These come in the form of a rub or gel, such as Tiger Balm or Ginger Rubs.
There are many different kinds, but we refer the warming ones when it comes to muscle tension.
The heat from the rub brings blood flow to the area, which helps flush out lactic acid and other metabolic byproducts.
It also brings oxygen and nutrients deep into the tissue to help it repair and relax.
Other muscle relaxants can be taken internally to help with symptoms as well.
Modafinil headaches can be a real pain. It’s one of the most common side effects of the drug.
Most people experience headaches on modafinil that are entirely preventable.
They either don’t drink enough water, aren’t getting enough nutrients, are overstimulated, or develop muscle tension headaches from poor posture while sitting all day.
The first step to preventing, and curing your headaches on modafinil is to identify what the most likely cause may be. From there, a few simple modifications are usually all it takes to prevent the issue altogether.
If in doubt, follow some of the tips outlined above, they cover 99% of the causes for headaches on modafinil that you’re likely to encounter.
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