Daylight saving time ending can trigger severe headaches

Daylight saving time ends this weekend, and while most of us welcome the extra hour of sleep, for some people the time change literally causes headaches. The end of daylight saving time is typically a trigger for what doctors called cluster headaches.

"These attacks, which occur every day, occur for six to eight weeks and then go away in a cluster cycle," said Dr. Stewart Tepper who treats headache pain at Cleveland Clinic. "They cluster, that's why it's called cluster, and it looks like you can actually trigger a cycle by switching the time with daylight saving time."

The cluster of headaches typically starts a couple of days after the time change. The attacks can last anywhere from six weeks to three months and can be debilitating. This phenomenon is seen much more in men than women and experts say it's caused by circadian rhythms in the brain, said Tepper.

"The portion of the brain that is also the generator for cluster is also the portion of the brain that manages rhythms through the day and through the year - the circadian rhythms and the circannual rhythms in the hypothalamus," said Tepper. "It's not just daylight saving that can trigger these attacks. Even changing time zones can trigger cluster headaches."

There are a variety of medications that work for cluster headaches and some headache specialists will even use melatonin to try to knock them down, or even prevent their onset. Oxygen also helps a lot, so many times cluster headache patients are given an oxygen tank and a mask to help relieve pain.

If you always seem to get headaches this time of year, pay attention to your symptoms and talk to your doctor, said Tepper.

"If you're a guy who gets, once a year, a couple of months worth of severe headaches at the same time of day with runny nose, stuffy nose, tearing eye, red eye, on one side only - I would get to a headache specialist," said Tepper.

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