New Research Finds Link Between Headaches, Migraine & Circadian Rhythm
From cluster headaches to full blown migraines, having a headache can be debilitating. And if you tend to get your headaches around the same time every day, they may just be related to your circadian rhythm, according to a new meta-analysis published in the journal Neurology. Here's what the researchers found./
Studying the connection between headaches & circadian rhythm.
Our circadian rhythm influences our sleep-wake cycle, including when we feel awake versus sleepy—and according to this study, potentially when headaches strike.
In their meta-analysis of existing research on cluster headaches, migraines, hormones, and circadian rhythm, researchers found many people tend to experience their symptoms at the same time every day.
Namely, 71% of people who experienced cluster headaches had circadian patterns to their headaches, with attacks peaking in the late evening to early hours of the morning, and more attacks during spring and fall. For migraines, 50% of people showed a circadian pattern to their attacks, with the time of day ranging a bit wider, from late morning to early evening.
In terms of hormonal patterns, those with cluster headaches had higher cortisol levels and lower melatonin levels than those without cluster headaches, and those dealing with migraines had lower levels of melatonin in their urine than people without migraines, as well as lower melatonin levels during a migraine attack.
As study author Mark Joseph Burish, M.D., Ph.D. explains in a news release, "The data suggest that both of these headache disorders are highly circadian at multiple levels, especially cluster headache," adding that these findings reinforce the importance of our circadian rhythm and its role in cluster headaches and migraines.
"These results raise the potential for using circadian-based treatments for headache disorders. This could include both treatments based on the circadian rhythm—such as taking medications at certain times of the day—and treatments that cause circadian changes, which certain medications can do," Burish adds.
What to do about it.
While more research needs to be done to further explain this circadian connection to headaches, it's clear that having a regulated circadian rhythm carries over into many areas of our health and wellbeing. And the good news is, getting your circadian rhythm in check is a simple, effective, and accessible way to take control of your sleep health.
For one thing, the essential sleep rules like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, are a good place to start—along with avoiding caffeine and alcohol too close to bed, which can impact sleep quality.
It may also be worthwhile to consider opting for a quality sleep supplement with ingredients like magnesium and pharmaGABA, which are research-backed to help regulate circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality. (Here are nine of our favorites, all vetted by a nutrition scientist.)
And for other ways to keep your circadian rhythm in check, be sure to get natural light as soon as you wake up, try to eat and workout at the same times every day, and find healthy ways to manage stress.
Our circadian rhythm plays a role in so many different bodily functions, so it's no surprise that it could impact headaches and migraine. As we understand more and more about circadian rhythm and its role in our overall well-being, consider this one more reason to make sure you're sticking to a healthy sleep schedule.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.