Research has found that migraines and cluster headaches are linked to the body’s internal clock.
The meta-analysis involved 72 studies on circadian rhythms — the body’s internal clock — that appeared to be linked to either of the two headache disorders.
The study included data on what time of day or year a person gets a headache and the time of day the headache occurs.
It also looked at whether certain genes related to the biological clock were more common in people with these disorders, as well as hormones associated with the circadian system — cortisol and melatonin.
According to the NHS, cluster headaches are attacks of severe pain on one side of the head, usually felt around the eyes, while migraines are described as moderate or severe headaches felt as throbbing pain on one side of the head.
What did the research reveal?
The analysis found a link between cluster headaches and the body’s internal clock in 71 percent of people — attacks that seem to peak late at night into the early hours of the morning.
These are more likely to occur in spring and fall.
People with cluster headaches have higher levels of cortisol and lower levels of melatonin than people without the disorder.
According to Rupa Health, cortisol typically peaks in the morning to wake us up, while melatonin rises in the evening to help us sleep better.
For migraines, the analysis showed that in 50 percent of people the attack pattern was linked to the body’s internal clock and ranged from late morning to early evening — tapering off at night when attacks are rare.
More or more severe migraines were reported between April and October.
Many genes were associated with migraine risk, and 110 of the 168 genes were found to be involved in circadian rhythms.
People who had migraines were found to have lower levels of melatonin in their urine than people who didn’t have migraines — and lower melatonin levels during attacks, too.
What is Circadian Rhythm?
These are 24 hour cycles and are part of the body’s internal clock which basically performs important functions and processes.
A well-known circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle, according to the Sleep Foundation.
“The different systems of the body follow circadian rhythms that are synchronized with the master clock in the brain,” the Sleep Foundation says on its website.
“This master clock is directly influenced by environmental cues, especially light, which is why circadian rhythms are linked to the day-night cycle.”
When circadian rhythm is adjusted accordingly, it promotes a consistent and healthy sleep cycle, but when it is disrupted, it can trigger serious sleep problems, including insomnia.
“It raises questions about the genetics of triggers like sleep changes”
“The data suggest that these two headache disorders are highly circadian on multiple levels, particularly cluster headache,” said study author Dr. Mark Joseph Burish, FAPN.
This reinforces “the importance of the hypothalamus – the area of the brain where the main biological clock is located – and its role in cluster headaches and migraines,” Dr Burish said.
“It also raises the question of the genetics of triggers, such as changes in sleep, a known migraine trigger and a clue to the body’s circadian rhythms.”
The results raise the possibility of using circadian rhythm-based treatments for headaches, and “may include circadian rhythm-based treatments—such as taking medications at specific times of day—as well as treatments that induce changes in circadian rhythms, and certain drugs can Do it,” added Dr. Burish.
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Limitations during the study
The researchers found that they did not have enough information about other factors that might affect the circadian cycle.
This includes things like medication, other medical conditions like bipolar disorder, or issues like working night shifts or staying up late.
The results were published Wednesday in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, with support from the Will Irwin Foundation for Headache Research.