Why You May Experience More Headaches When Daylight Savings Time Ends

As you savor your pumpkin spice latte and finish off the leftover Halloween candy, you know what comes next: the end of Daylight Savings Time (DST). There's a good chance that you dread DST in the spring because you get shortchanged an hour of sleep. Yet as the cool weather sets in, you look forward to getting back that stolen hour when you set your clocks back.

While many people might not be heavily affected by the end of DST, some people are more sensitive to changes in their sleep cycles, such as people with dementia. Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta told CNN that people who experience episodic cluster headaches might also be affected by the ending of this annual clock adjustment. That's because the hypothalamus, which balances your circadian rhythms, can also trigger a cluster headache.

Cluster headaches are more common in spring and fall

People with cluster headaches tend to have higher cortisol levels and lower levels of melatonin compared to people without this disorder, according to a 2023 article in Neurology (via News Medical Life Sciences). Both these hormones are associated with your circadian rhythms. That makes cluster headaches more common in the spring and fall.

It's not that the end of daylight savings time will cause you to have a typical tension headache or migraine. Compared to migraine headaches that affect up to 15% of the population, cluster headaches aren't common, affecting only about one person out of 1,000. Many will mistake a cluster headache for a migraine, according to Yale Medicine. Cluster headaches feel like searing pain around the eye and can last up to three hours. 

People who have cluster headaches will experience these headaches, either at the same time every day or at specific times of the year. While most people who have cluster headaches will have two attacks a day, some people might have them up to eight times a day. According to a 2019 article in JAMA Neurology, some people with cluster headaches can predict the onset of a headache within an hour.