Sunday, March 13th, 2022, at 2:00 a.m. local time we set our clocks forward 1-hour as Daylight-Saving (that’s right, it’s “Saving,” not “Savings”) Time rears its ugly head once again. While losing an hour of sleep is simply an annoyance for most of us, there can be real daylight-saving health effects for some people. Sleep experts say losing that sleep time could make a significant difference in your health. That 1-hour may not sound like much, but studies have linked it to increased traffic accidents, higher rates of stroke, and a bump in heart attacks. Specifically, the University of Alabama and a team of researchers in Michigan hospitals both suggest the rate of heart attacks can jump as much as 25% the Monday after we “spring forward.” Lead author and cardiology fellow Dr. Amneet Sandhu, says, “It may mean that people who are already vulnerable to heart disease may be at greater risk right after sudden time changes.”
Daylight-saving, which was started to conserve energy, forces our internal body clocks to compete with our watches. Inside the brain’s hypothalamus is a “master” called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which uses hormonal & chemical signals to sync time throughout the body. Our internal clocks regulate processes including liver function, the immune system, and our body’s physiology, which means any disruption can have significant effects.
Dr. Holly Phillips states any daylight-saving health effects come down to two things: stress and sleep deprivation. “When we are sleep deprived or stressed, there are more inflammatory markers in our bloodstream, and that inflammation raises our risk of heart attacks,” she explains.
If you’re chronically sleep-deprived, which most people are, daylight-saving will only exacerbate that fact. While being tired and stressed is detrimental to our health any time of year, the effects can become compounded by the time change.
In a 2015 study published in Sleep Medicine, researchers compared the rate of strokes during the week after daylight-saving to the rate 2-weeks before or 2-weeks after. They found the rate was 8% higher the first 2-days after the shift: People over age 65 were 20% more likely to have a stroke than during other times of the year, and people with cancer were 25% more likely.
A 2019 report found a higher risk of heart attack after both daylight-saving & standard time changes, but particularly during daylight-saving.
Interruptions to circadian rhythm can also impair focus and judgment. A 2020 study found fatal traffic accidents increased by 6% in the U.S. during daylight-saving.
So what can we do to combat the effects of Daylight-Saving Time on the body?
How to Easily Adjust to Daylight-Saving Time:
- Take it easy on daylight-saving weekend. Make slight adjustments to your schedule in the days leading up to the time change. Go to bed 15-20 minutes early in the days beforehand; that will help your body acclimate to the difference. And feel free to nap on Sunday – but “no longer than 20 minutes” warns The Better Sleep Council.
- Getting up at your normal time will help your body adjust – regardless of what time the sun rises.
- Be extra aware on the roads – 100,000 auto accidents are caused by driver fatigue each year, and sleep deprivation due to the time change leads to an increase in crashes.
- Get some exercise! Working out during the day can help you sleep better, as long as it’s not within 2-hours of bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and processed sugars – all common causes of poor sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals within a couple hours of bedtime.
- Avoid too much screen time before bed. Take time to wind down. Turn off all distracting devices. Put down your smartphone and read a book, sip a cup of tea, or soak in a relaxing bath – adding a few drops of lavender can help you destress completely and promote a good night’s rest.
- Make your bedroom a sanctuary of calm. Create the perfect environment for sleep by keeping the room dark, quiet, and calm – no TV in the bedroom!
These daylight-saving health tips should make for a smoother transition when you “spring forward, yet they are good advice any time of year; try making them a regular part of your commitment to wellness!
Daylight-Saving Time lasts a total of 34-weeks in the U.S., from early-to-mid March until early November. The custom has been a subject of debate with much argument for quite some time. If you wish you could just skip all the clock-changing hassle, you’re not alone. A 2014 poll found only 33% of American adults think observing Daylight-Saving Time is worth the trouble. In fact, people are so tired of losing an hour of sleep, there are dozens of petitions to abolish the practice online at Change.org.
Are you for it or against it? Why?
For the time being, there’s not much we can do about “Spring Forward” aside from taking steps to adjust to Daylight-Saving Time as smoothly as possible. What steps do you take to make better sleep a part of your healthy lifestyle?
Cheers to your health today and every day!