Why Do Migraines Happen Around the Same Time of Day?

Your body’s internal clock has proven to play a role in the time of day when severe headaches occur. This article examines the science behind your headaches and the periods they happen.

Are Migraines and Cluster Headaches Similar?

Migraines and cluster headaches have different treatments and characteristics. However, experts have identified key features; both are neurological diseases and indicate another underlying condition. However, neither can be easily identified, so they are diagnosed based on symptoms. In this case, excruciating is at the top of the list.

Now, new research has shown another similarity between both illnesses: timing.

Symptoms of Cluster Headaches and Migraines

Cluster headaches are essentially a one-sided attack resulting in watery eyes and a runny nose on the side of the face, which is affected. It often makes patients restless and experience intense pain.

Migraines are also very painful, but symptoms show differently. They include nausea, vomiting, light, noise, and motion sensitivity.

What Were the Research Findings?

According to study leader Dr. Mark Joseph Burish, the team discovered that about 50% of migraine patients and 70% of cluster headache patients have headaches starting at the same time each day. He also said the timing could differ from patient to patient, but it is consistent in most cases.

Dr. Burish said patient no.1 might have headaches at 3 a.m. while patient no. 2 might have headaches at noon. However, he also said that the time zones did not matter as the headaches had a daily pattern.

Cluster headaches affect an average of 1 in every 1,000 Americans. This is nearly 330,000 in total. On the other hand, migraines are far more common, affecting at least 39 million Americans. The timing of the headaches seems to be connected to the brain structure called the hypothalamus. This is responsible for hunger, body temperature, and circadian rhythm.

When Do Cluster Headaches and Migraines Happen?

Due to the fact treatment for one headache type might not work for another, Dr. Burish said getting the diagnosis right is crucial. By reviewing findings from two research groupings, the researchers found that the risk of a cluster headache rises from late at night till the early morning. The risk also increases during the spring and fall.

By contrast, migraine risk is highest during the day. It spikes during the late morning hours and stays up until the early evening.


Understanding when your migraines happen will help you prepare better for them. If necessary, you can contact your doctor for pain medications.