Why Do You Get a Headache at the Same Time Every Day?

Man with headache

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Key Takeaways

  • Migraines and cluster headaches might be associated with the body’s circadian rhythm.
  • The imbalances of cortisol and melatonin—the two key hormones that regulate sleep—can cause sleep disturbances and trigger headaches.
  • Prioritizing a consistent sleep schedule and improving sleep quality might help reduce cluster headaches.

Recurrent headaches tend to happen at the same time every day, and they might be related to our sleep schedule.

A recent meta-analysis found a strong link between the body’s circadian rhythm and two types of headaches—migraines and cluster headaches.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, analyzed all available studies that evaluated the timing of cluster headaches and migraines as well as studies that linked headaches to cortisol and melatonin, the two hormones that could affect sleep.

Researchers found that around 71% of the participants experienced recurrent cluster headaches in the late hours of the night or early in the morning, suggesting they’re linked to the body’s internal clock.

“This article is meant to help identify the problem so that we can design future studies to address the problem. We are hoping that we will be able to design medications in the future that target some of the circadian changes that we see in cluster headaches and migraines,” Mark Joseph Burish, MD, PhD, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, told Verywell via an email.

How Is Our Sleep Schedule Regulated?

Our sleep schedule is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain, which is sensitive to light and regulates the body’s internal schedule. It also helps regulate melatonin and cortisol, two key hormones that control sleep patterns.

How Our Sleep Schedule Can Trigger Headaches

Cluster headaches are characterized by severe, one-sided pain that can happen up to eight times a day—usually in the middle of the night.

The study found that many people with cluster headaches also have higher levels of cortisol and lower levels of melatonin, which can disrupt the sleep schedule and trigger headaches.

Cortisol and melatonin have opposite cycles, with one peaking when the other is at its lowest, according to Yohannes Woldeamanuel, MD, an instructor at the department of neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine. An imbalance of these hormones can lead to daytime sleepiness, loss of focus and alertness, and headaches.

Woldeamanuel said that daylight exposure, physical activity, stress, and caffeine intake can all affect these two key circadian hormones.

Researchers still don’t fully understand how a disruption to sleep cycles can affect health, but they’re pushing for more research on potential treatments that can target the circadian system. This could include taking medications at a certain time of day or drugs that can cause circadian changes, according to Burish. 

Tips on Improving Sleep and Minimizing Headaches

If you have a headache at the same time every day, there are interventions you can take to improve your quality of sleep and help minimize headache symptoms. 

“The prevalence of chronic primary headache disorders is increasing globally,” Woldeamanuel told Verywell in an email. “This appears to be linked to changes in lifestyle such as inconsistent sleep patterns, and insufficient physical activity. Enhancing these two aspects of sleep and exercise can assist individuals in preventing and ultimately managing headache episodes.”

He added that maintaining consistent mealtimes, increasing morning light exposure, and reducing screen time before bed can all help to improve sleep quality.

Currently, cluster headaches are commonly managed with medications such as lithium carbonate and verapamil. The administration of pure oxygen can help reduce symptoms quickly.

Taking a 10–25 mg of melatonin in the evening has also been shown to prevent episodic headache attacks.

If common interventions don’t improve your symptoms, it’s a good idea to consult your healthcare provider.

“The earlier you visit a doctor, the better,” Woldeamanuel said. “It is crucial to address recurrent headaches as soon as possible to prevent them from developing into a chronic daily condition. Additionally, intervening early is simpler and more effective than waiting until later when the headaches may become resistant to treatment.”

What This Means For You

If you suffer from headaches at the same time each day, start paying attention to your sleep schedule and make some recommended lifestyle adjustments. See a doctor if the headaches are starting to impact your daily life.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Benkli B, Kim SY, Koike N, et al. Circadian features of cluster headache and migraine: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and genetic analysis. Neurology. Published online March 29, 2023. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000207240

  2. American Migraine Foundation. Understanding cluster headaches.

  3. Burish MJ, Chen Z, Yoo SH. Cluster headache is in part a disorder of the circadian system. JAMA Neurol. 2018;75(7):783-784. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.1049

  4. Hirotsu C, Tufik S, Andersen ML. Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: from physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Sci. 2015;8(3):143-152. doi:10.1016/j.slsci.2015.09.002

  5. American Academy of Neurology. Do your headaches happen at the same time of day?.

  6. Wei DY, Khalil M, Goadsby PJ. Managing cluster headache. Pract Neurol. 2019;19(6):521-528. doi:10.1136/practneurol-2018-002124

By Amy Isler, RN, MSN, CSN
Amy Isler, RN, MSN, CSN, is a registered nurse with over six years of patient experience. She is a credentialed school nurse in California.