|Cluster headaches are excruciatingly, painful headaches that tend to occur in cycles or patterns. A bout of cluster headaches usually means that the individual will have one or more headaches per day for a period that may last between a week and many months. These headaches can last between 15 minutes and 3 hours, and they tend to occur at the same times of the day.
They have been nicknamed "alarm clock" headaches for their uncanny way of waking someone from a deep sleep at the same time each night. While the headaches may occur at any time of the day, they are more common between 1 and 2 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m., and at 9 p.m.
After this cycle of headache attacks subsides, there is usually period of reprieve when no headaches occur; however, if the pattern continues for a year without a break, the cluster headaches are said to be chronic.
Cluster headaches are far rarer than tension headaches or migraines, and the pain is also far worse. They usually come on suddenly without warning, and are typically unilateral (on one side of the head). The pain is often described as sharp, penetrating or burning.
Having cluster headaches may be incredibly debilitating and cause much distress. Many people fear going to sleep as they know an impending headache awaits them, and as a result, may get caught up in a bad cycle of sleep deprivation— which can worsen the condition and lead to feelings of depression. It is therefore important to learn as much as possible about your cluster headaches and take necessary steps to treat them.