Cluster headache (CH) is a primary headache disorder which is characterized by circadian timing of headache attacks, usually at nighttime, in around two thirds of patients. Patients with CH often report sleep difficulties, though it is unknown whether this is a cause or a consequence of nightly headache attacks.
In this case-control study we have assessed sleep quality in study participants with CH in cluster bout respectively in remission, compared to a control group of neurologically healthy individuals to investigate the potential connection between sleep and CH.
Fifty study participants with CH and 42 controls were recruited for sleep assessment. Sleep was recorded using MotionWatch 8 actigraphs (CamNTech) for a period of two weeks. Study participants were instructed to wear the unit during rest and sleep and to fill out a sleep diary daily through the two-weeks period.
Results from actigraphy recordings and sleep diaries suggested that patients with CH spend longer time in bed than controls (CH 8.1 hours vs. Controls 7.7 hours, p=0.03), but do not sleep more than controls (CH 6.7 hours vs. controls 6.5 hours, p=0.3). In addition, CH patients reported increased sleep latency (p=0.003), particularly during, but not restricted to, cluster bouts. Study participants with CH further reported higher levels of stress at bedtime (p=0.01), and they felt less well rested than controls (p=0.001).
Our analysis suggests that sleep is negatively affected in CH both in cluster bout and in remission, manifesting in symptoms consistent with insomnia such as prolonged sleep latency and increased time in bed.