Why Time Changes Affect Cluster Headaches & Coping Strategies
Daylight savings affects people who live in most regions of the U.S. twice per year, and travel often requires changing time zones to reach one’s destination. Changes in time have been linked to increases in various health conditions and phenomena like heart attacks, workplace injuries, and even car accidents.
Time changes have a way of “throwing off” many people’s internal clock; however, this can be much more severe for those who suffer from cluster headaches. Cluster headaches can occur one or more times in a single day and are among the most painful types of headaches that exist.
This article addresses the topic of why time changes can cause cluster headaches and how cluster headache sufferers can prevent and cope with this painful condition throughout the year.
Time’s Effect on Cluster Headaches
Time changes have an effect on the body’s circadian rhythms, which control hormones, moods, hunger, and sleep patterns. When these patterns change, the body feels a noticeable difference and chronic conditions can be triggered.
One such condition is a cluster headache, which occurs as excruciating pain on one side of the head. Changes in circadian rhythms may be to blame for the increase in these types of headaches during daylight savings transitions and after traveling somewhere in a different time zone. The amount of natural sunlight that a person receives per day also changes when the time shifts, and this also affects the body’s sleep-wake cycle and the likelihood of cluster headaches.
Preparing for Time Changes
Cluster headaches are very common in the fall and spring when people adjust their clocks for daylight savings time. However, individuals can do their best to prepare for these changes in advance. Melatonin is a hormone that helps control sleep-wake cycles, and this hormone is often low during periods of cluster headaches. A doctor may recommend a melatonin supplement to help stabilize sleep patterns shortly before and after a time change.
There are certain types of preventative prescription medications that are regularly prescribed to some people who are prone to cluster headaches. It may be beneficial for some individuals to take high blood pressure pills, calcium channel blockers, or anti-seizure medications to prevent recurrent cluster headaches based on the seasons.
Avoiding known triggers, like alcohol, cigarettes, preserved meats, and hot weather, can help prevent their onset as well. It is a smart idea to start avoiding triggers and begin preventative measures at least a few weeks before a time change occurs to help the body slowly adjust to the new time of day or time zone.
Coping with Cluster Headaches After a Time Change
But with even the best preparations, cluster headaches can still occur during time transitions. Fast-acting headache relief medications like Vanquish can help reduce the pain and pressure associated with cluster headaches.
Oxygen therapy administered by face mask for approximately 15 minutes per session is also a safe and easy way to manage acute cluster headache attacks. This is because oxygen being inhaled helps raise blood oxygen levels and relax the constricted blood vessels that are causing the pain. Other treatment strategies that are sometimes used to cope with acute cluster headache attacks include triptan drugs, ergotamine injections, and local anesthetics.
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