Modafinil headaches are one of the last things you want to happen when you need laser focus to power through an impossible task.
Unfortunately, a headache is one of the most common Modafinil side effects reported by users. There are several anecdotal reports of nootropic users who have had to stop taking Modafinil altogether because of the painful migraines they were experiencing .
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of tactics and solutions you can try to either ward off the pain or eliminate the headache altogether .
If you're suffering or simply concerned about getting a headache from Modafinil, we'll cover everything you need to know in this detailed guide.
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How Modafinil Works
So how exactly does Modafinil work on the human brain and body? What have scientists discovered about its chemical properties to date?
As of this writing, the precise mechanism of action is unclear. To use an analogy, we have major pieces of a puzzle, but we're still missing a few pieces that allow us to finish the puzzle and get a complete picture.
Modafinil is best-known as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DRI). It simultaneously increases dopamine in the brain and prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed into nerve cells, thereby making it more available to exert its mood-enhancing effects .
However, Modafinil is known to alter the production of other neurochemicals in the brain. It increases glutamate production  and histamine production  while lowering gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) production .
It is especially important to focus on histamine and GABA, both of which are responsible for regulating wakefulness. To oversimplify the science, higher histamine concentrations lead to wakefulness and higher GABA concentrations induce sleep .
In spite of all this, Modafinil is uniquely different from other stimulants that have similar effects with respect to altering the production of neurotransmitters :
“…modafinil differs from other arousal-enhancing agents in chemical structure, neurochemical profile, and behavioral effects.
…modafinil in low doses has a unique physiological profile compared with stimulant drugs: it enhances the efficiency of prefrontal cortical cognitive information processing, while dampening reactivity to threatening stimuli in the amygdala, a brain region implicated in anxiety.”
With this understanding in place, let's examine how and why smart drug users may experience a headache from Modafinil.
Why You Get Modafinil Headaches
Believe it or not, one of the most common Modafinil side effects is a painful headache. It is reported in medical studies as happening more frequently than other side effects such as nausea and stomach issues .
To understand exactly why smart drug users frequently report Modafinil headaches, we need to briefly look at the science of headaches.
While there are numerous types of headaches one can get, each with their signature origins and symptoms, there are four major types that are most common :
Sinus headaches: …produce a deep, dull pain around the bridge of the nose and behind the cheekbones…caused by inflamed or infected sinuses, and they result in an overall “stopped up” feeling in the head, especially in the ears and nose
Tension headaches: …cause an uncomfortable tightness like a headband squeezing the forehead. Most cause mild to moderate pain, and are the result of physical tension in the muscles of the neck, jaw and face
Migraines headaches: …the most painful type of headache, occurring on one side of the head and often concentrated behind the eye. Migraine sufferers describe a pounding, throbbing pain and a sensitivity to light and noise
Cluster headaches: …occur in “clusters” or several times a day. They cause an intense burning or piercing behind the eye, and sometimes last just 15 or 20 minutes.
Based on hundreds of anecdotal reports from test subjects on third-party forums, the type of Modafinil headache taking place is most likely a tension-type headache.
The good news is that these headaches are not a major issue, and in most cases will not require any medical attention. They tend to go away within a few hours in the worst-case scenario. Furthermore, there are usually one or two triggers that can explain the cause of the headache.
If you want to know what a Modafinil headache feels like, here are some telltale signs to watch out for :
- A tightness in the head that may migrate down to the neck area.
- A feeling of pressure being applied between the eyes
- A pain that doesn't throb, but is rather dull and persistent
- The pain doesn't change whether you're about to take a nap or hit the gym.
- No nausea associated with the headache.
Please keep in mind that even in the scientific community, not an awful lot is known about headaches or how to cure them. All we know to date is that Modafinil headaches are most likely derived from tension.
One possible source of tension is the overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which leads to outcomes such as higher blood pressure, increased heart rate. Modafinil is known to have sympathomimetic effects, meaning it stimulates the SNS .
Some scientists believe that migraines are a chronic SNS disorder, which could explain how overdosing on Modafinil may lead to a headache :
“It is proposed that the sympathetic dysfunction in migraine relates to an imbalance of sympathetic co-transmitters.
Specifically, it is suggested that a migraine attack is characterized by a relative depletion of sympathetic norepinephrine stores in conjunction with an increase in the release of other sympathetic cotransmitters such as dopamine, prostaglandins, adenosine triphosphate, and adenosine.”
Additionally, excess glutamate concentrations in the brain are known to be associated with migraines . This is the same reason why people experience headaches after eating foods with high concentrations of MSG (monosodium glutamate).
As you can see, there are numerous explanations for why a Modafinil headache can be brought on with frequent Modafinil use.
How to Get Rid of Modafinil Headache
How exactly does one get rid of a Modafinil headache?
Before we share our recommendations, it is important to note two things. First, that Modafinil headaches usually appear around 2-3 hours after administration, which coincides with the time when it is working most effectively. Second, Modafinil headaches rarely last longer than an entire day .
Some of these recommendations tend to solve the problem of a Modafinil headache relatively quickly, while others may not be as effective. It is up to each individual to experiment and determine what works best for them.
After all, pharmaceutical drugs will always react differently to different people, due to our unique and individual biochemistry.
Here are some tips for how some test subjects have successfully gotten rid of Modafinil headaches in the past :
One of Modafinil's common side effects is dehydration, which in and of itself can be a major source of headache pain :
“When the body is dehydrated, the brain can temporarily contract or shrink from fluid loss.
This mechanism causes the brain to pull away from the skull, causing pain and resulting in a dehydration headache.
Once rehydrated, the brain plumps up and returns to its normal state, relieving the headache.”
This is by far the easiest fix for a Modafinil headache and one that comes highly recommended. The intense focus provided by Modafinil makes it easy to forget to stay hydrated while working.
Our general recommendation is to consume 2 liters of water in even sips throughout the day if you take 100 mg of Modafinil, and 4 liters of water if you are taking 200 mg of Modafinil.
And while we have not personally used this method, adding salt to your water intake may slow the speed at which your kidneys excrete water from your body. This will help retain more water and thus ensure you stay hydrated.
Believe it or not, there are headaches that can be induced by high levels of hunger :
“If you haven’t had anything to eat in a while, your blood sugar levels can drop.
In response, your body releases hormones that signal your brain that you’re hungry.
These same hormones may increase your blood pressure and tighten blood vessels in your body, triggering a headache.”
While Modafinil is anecdotally more effective when taken in on an empty stomach, this is not necessarily a healthy approach. As with hydration, Modafinil can make it very easy for smart drug users to skip meals and it is a well-known appetite suppressant.
A solution to this problem would be to schedule the ties of the day in which you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the very least, a decent-sized nutritious breakfast should be consumed before taking Modafinil.
Ensuring your body has all the nutrients it needs will help minimize your chances of getting a Modafinil headache, or at the very least reducing the level pain brought on by a Modafinil headache.
Getting inadequate sleep is yet another little-known cause of tension headaches . Just 1-3 hours of lost sleep is enough to induce a headache that lasts a few hours to an entire day. Not to mention that consistently poor sleep can be damaging for your overall health.
Since Modafinil promotes wakefulness, you must dose the smart drug to ensure you can get to sleep each night at an appropriate hour. This means taking it as early in the morning as possible, ideally no later than 10am.
Many users have found headaches go away once they start getting better sleep at night.
One of the most common mistakes made by beginner-level Modafinil users is to go beyond the recommended dose of 100-200 mg per day, 1-3 times per week. They will up the dosage to 300-400 mg a day, sometimes taking Modafinil every single day of the week.
Unsurprisingly, Modafinil headaches are often connected to an overdose .
The most straightforward solution is to simply reduce your Modafinil dose. Lowering the Modafinil dosage to 200 mg and limiting its use to a few times a week have helped most of our test subjects (in combination with proper hydration and nutrition).
Another strategy may involve further splitting your daily dose of Modafinil into two smaller doses. For instance, if you intend to take 200 mg of Modafinil a day, you may consider taking 100 mg in the early morning and another 100 mg before 2pm. For some users, this may interfere with their normal sleep schedule.
More Physical Exercise
If Modafinil is preventing you from adhering to a fitness regimen, it would be worth your while to get regular exercise. There is a significant amount of research demonstrating that frequent exercise can be a useful treatment for tension-type headaches .
You do not need to spend hours working out in a gym. Even a quick 30-minute lifting session or jog should help ward off Modafinil headaches. Just don't forget to follow the other tips above, especially the one regarding the importance of hydration.
And in the rare event where you can't make it to the gym, deep breathing exercises can do wonders for reducing SNS stimulation and therefore your anxiety levels.
When you spend 8-10 hours sitting down and typing away at a keyboard with poor posture, you're inducing a state of chronic stress across the muscles in the head, neck and upper shoulders. This can eventually lead to tension-type headaches :
“It is thought that poor posture such as forward head extension may result in tension build-up in the shoulders, neck, and upper back which can cause headaches and migraines.
Research investigating the presence of musculoskeletal dysfunctions and the prevalence of migraines found that those with migraines were more likely to also have several musculoskeletal dysfunctions aside from forward head posture.”
To fix this, we highly recommend taking frequent breaks during your workday. Something as simple as standing up and stretching for 10 minutes after every 60 minutes of seated work will do wonders for your body. It will also give your mind a much-needed mental break.
See if you can actively practice good standing posture. In combination with a regular exercise routine, it may help alleviate the pain associated with Modafinil headaches.
Stop Mixing Modafinil With Other Stimulants
If your headache from Modafinil still isn't resolved, you may want to take a look at other nootropics you are stacking with Modafinil. Stimulants such as caffeine can lead to withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them, with one of the most common outcomes being a painful headache .
Try to take Modafinil on its own for a few days to see if removing other stimulants helps resolve the Modafinil headache.
Alternatively, there is some evidence suggesting that Armodafinil leads to a lower incidence of headaches compared to Modafinil .
Modafinil Headache Cures
Many of the lifestyle fixes suggested in the previous section will resolve 90% of Modafinil headaches. But in rare cases, additional supplementation in the form of a “Modafinil headache cure” may be required.
While these supplements are not necessarily curative of headaches, they are useful options when you have tried everything else with little to no success
Many test subjects have reported that headaches from Modafinil also increase their anxiety levels, which on their own can induce headaches .
Thus, it is possible that taking an anxiolytic (i.e. anxiety-reducing) supplement may help eliminate Modafinil headaches. Some popular options include:
Here is a basic protoc0l using these three supplements that should naturally lower anxiety and potentially eliminate your Modafinil headaches.:
- On the days you take Modafinil, supplement with L-Theanine after your final meal
- Rub some Magnesium Oil on your body, following the instructions on the bottle (~500 mg is sufficient)
- Take 3 mg of Melatonin before bed.
This may not work for everybody, so please take caution when using this protocol.
Supplementing with Choline
Our final recommendation is purely anecdotal in nature. After hearing hundreds of smart drug users swear by the use of Modafinil and Choline to reduce headaches, we wanted to provide a possible explanation for why this combination appears to work for some people in treating a headache from Modafinil.
First, let's review what Choline does and why it is essential for brain health :
“Choline is a vitamin-like essential nutrient and a methyl donor involved in many physiological processes, including normal metabolism and transport of lipids, methylation reactions, and neurotransmitter synthesis.
…Choline is a precursor for acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter synthesized by cholinergic neurons and involved in muscle control, circadian rhythm, memory, and many other neuronal functions.”
To be clear, Modafinil does not affect the metabolism of choline into acetylcholine in any way, nor does it increase extracellular concentrations of acetylcholine.
Some test subjects claim Choline supplementation can relieve the headaches brought on by other nootropics, but there is no evidence to suggest a link between Modafinil and Choline. Therefore, one cannot substantiate the claim that Choline would help eliminate a Modafinil headache.
There is a connection between lower choline levels in red blood cells and cluster headaches , but nothing in regards to tension headaches or other types of headaches.
Soy lecithin – 2.5-9.5% choline by weight
CDP-Choline (citicoline) – 18% choline by weight, but it also a uridine precursor
Phosphatidylcholine – 13% choline by weight, most common food source
Alpha-GlyceroPhosphoCholine (Alpha GPC) – 40% by weight, reliably crosses blood brain barrier
Choline Bitartrate – 40% by weight, but ineffective conversion
If nothing else works for your headaches, try taking Modafinil and Choline together by using Alpha-GPC.
We only suggest using this combination as a last resort due to the lack of evidence supporting it.
Modafinil and Headaches | The Verdict
A Modafinil headache can be difficult to treat but it certainly isn't impossible.
Some find the headaches are painful to the point where they eliminate all the positive cognitive benefits of the smart drug, as the pain doesn't allow them to work or study.
Other test subjects don't have issues with any tension, anxiety, or headaches when taking Modafinil.
There are numerous tactics and strategies one can employ if they experience a headache from Modafinil. If you're suffering, start by following the advice above.
However, for several smart drug users, the benefits of Modafinil far outweigh the minor side effects they struggle with. They would much rather buy Modafinil online and still use the smart drug, even if a minor headache pops up on rare occasions.
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