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Podcasts for Migraines

by Jaci

I have a problem: I get migraines. A lot.

If you're like me, you know that pain is only part of the misery of a migraine. My migraines come with light sensitivity, and looking at screens (or sometimes, at anything) is out.

So. I'm in pain, and I can't read or watch anything to distract myself. Worse, even thinking can hurt. How do you lie around in a dark room without thinking?

My solution: podcasts!

I need a fun, engaging story to distract me, keep me from thinking. But not a complicated story, or I'll end up thinking anyway, or miss important details when I drift in and out. And I need it to be soothing--a steady, relaxing voice, with no sudden shouting or jarring sound effects. The perfect migraine podcast ticks all of these boxes.

I can't be the only one looking for this extremely specific category of podcast, so I thought I'd share my go-to series for migraine listening here. I'll update this list periodically as I discover new ones, and if you have any suggestions to add, let me know in the comments!

(Note: you'll see a lot of narrative horror anthologies. There's a reason for that--being creeped out is especially distracting, and anthologies don't require much concentration over long periods of time. But if you don't like horror, listener beware!)

Welcome to Night Vale: If you like narrative or audiodrama podcasts, you know this one. Cecil's voice is soothing AF, and the absurd storylines are great for forgetting I'm in pain. The disjointed nature of their storylines is also great--I nod off for a few minutes, and come back to hear Cecil talking about something completely random, and it's fine. The confusion is part of it! The downside: lately, WTNV has become more ad than episode, and the ads and sponsorships are loud and jarring for one with head pain. If Cecil's voice is what you're looking for, maybe try their audiobooks.

The Magnus Archives: One of my all-time favorite podcasts, period, this one got me through many a migraine in its early seasons. Jon's soothing voice, beautifully creepy short stories, relaxing all works. Until, of course, the plot really kicks in, when I start setting up red-string-covered conspiracy walls. At that point, TMA makes me think, and that's a problem. On the second and third listen of the early seasons? More thinking. But if it's your first time, this is a great choice to get you through a migraine!

Knifepoint Horror: This one's less addictive to me, but it's been a relaxing fallback option. Consistent, almost monotone storytelling makes it soothing, and again, it's a narrative horror anthology. Some of the stories move too slowly to be very distracting, though.

Pseudopod: Short horror stories! Clearly always a winner for me, and this podcast does a great job of compiling a variety of excellent stories. They use different readers for different stories, though, so I can't always vouch for how soothing someone's voice is. And occasionally I've been awoken by a blood-curdling scream... Less than ideal for migraine listening.

Old Gods of Appalachia: I'm only a few episodes into this one, another horror anthology, but so far it's a new favorite. The soundscapes are phenomenal, making you feel like you're walking alongside a witch in eldritch woods, and the stories are engaging without requiring too much concentration to follow. Seriously, give it a listen, whether you're in pain or not!

Lavender Tavern: Coming soon from Faustian Nonsense! You'd think this one would violate the "not making Jaci think" requirement, since I'm helping produce it. But even knowing all the work that go into making them, these modern queer fairytales still make me feel like I'm being read a bedtime story, transporting me to all sorts of fantasy worlds (places where I don't have a headache).

Do you have thoughts on any of the podcasts on my list? Do you have others you think I should try out, next time I'm in a dark room with a washcloth over my eyes? Let me know in the comments!

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