How Desk Work Can Lead to Headaches

- By Stephani Oolup

To be efficient, productive and feel good about your job, you have to feel good inside to get the work done. But when those nasty headaches come in the middle of the day, it’s hard to focus. We’re going to explain some reasons these might happen.

1. Too much coffee, too little water.

Coffee, coffee, coffee. Or is that just me? I’m not saying that coffee isn’t absolutely wonderful, but it is a diuretic. This means that it contributes to your body being dehydrated. Coupled with a lack of water intake, your brain itself becomes dehydrated and actually shrinks, pulling away from your skull. This can definitely be one common - and easy to fix - reason for a headache. 

2. Drop in blood sugar levels. 

Your brain requires sugar (glucose) for fuel throughout the day. Not having enough food, ideally nutritious, in your system can cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low. This puts your body in a state of hypoglycemia with symptoms often such as migraines, headaches and confusion. Having a good breakfast or snacks on hand is a great idea if you’re going to be at your desk for long periods of time. 

3. Lack of sleep.

Rise and grind, I get it. But research has shown that those who sleep less than six hours a night had more frequent and intense headaches than those who slept longer. These can last from an hour to a whole day, and even keep you up at night. Do headaches contribute to lack of sleep or vice versa? While the exact reasoning between headaches and lack of sleep isn’t clear, being chronically sleep deprived can definitely contribute to your headaches. 

4. Visual strain.

Screen time is almost guaranteed at jobs these days. But we tend to blink less when looking at a screen, which actually dehydrates our eyes. And if you’re one of those people who has 2+ monitors, or 100 different tabs open at a time, constantly switching between that (and your cell phone) puts an increased strain on your eyes. Excessive strain on your visual system requires a lot of energy, and is a common trigger for headaches at work. 

5. Lack of movement.

Sit to stand desks are great for adding variety into your posture, but they don’t really get your blood flowing. Sitting (or standing) at a desk prolonged with the added stress from work causes our muscles and tissue to tense up, especially around our neck and back of head, contributing to what is called a tension headache. Movement increases blood flow and forces muscles to change their tensional position, helping alleviate this type of headache. 

Now you know at least a few things that could be a part of those annoying work headaches. Find some solutions that are practical and work for you to help mitigate this problem. And remember, if it seems like something more is going on or the headaches persist, make sure to see a healthcare professional!

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