Daylight Savings Time: Effects to Your Health

It’s almost time to move our clocks forward one hour for daylight savings. We’ll gain more daylight during the day and the weather will start getting warmer making way for more outdoor time. With the spring forward time change we gain an extra hour of daylight in the evenings; however we also lose an hour of sleep. While an hour may not seem like a lot, the change can affect our sleep cycle and overall well-being. There have been studies that have noted physical and mental effects associated with Daylight Savings Time (DST), both in March and November.

Increase of heart attacks and strokes.

A study published in Open Heart found a 25% jump in the number of heart attacks occurring the Monday after daylight savings. The one-hour loss of sleep and the Monday morning stress could affect those that already suffer from heart problems. The opposite is true for fall time change. There is a decrease of heart attacks following the end of DST.

Strokes are known to increase following ‘spring forward’ and ‘fall back’ time changes. The changes in sleep pattern can contribute to high blood pressure and can also affect mental health. Both are risk factors for heart attacks and stroke.

Before the DST time change, try to move your bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each day so the loss of sleep isn’t so sudden.

Fatigue and decrease of productivity.

The loss of sleep can cause fatigue and a loss of productivity.  When we are tired, we tend to lean into that fatigue, lose focus and engage in activities like surfing the internet or watching TV. Overuse of devices and online activity can impair our ability to sleep causing additional disturbances and fatigue. If you start to feel fatigued, try to take a nap earlier in the day (not too late). Try to limit the use of devices especially close to bedtime – reading a book or magazine instead might be a good alternative.

A surge in accidents.

Insufficient sleep and disruptions to sleep patterns have been tied to related accidents. Our society is already sleep deprived and the loss of sleep that comes with DST is thought to create an increase in car accidents and other accidents in the home or work. The other contributing factor is the loss of light in the morning when we wake up. Our biological clocks are affected by this and impacts our brain functions. There are ways to combat this by purchasing an alarm clock that slowly brightens as you wake up.

Low mood and depression

Depression and sleep problems are closely linked. Those who are sleep deprived are more likely to develop depression. And those that experience depression have a hard time falling and staying asleep. To help combat the cycle during the time change, take advantage of the benefit of daylight savings—the extra hour of light. Try to get outdoors to go for a walk and simply enjoy the sun.  Enjoy the company of others whether it’s a phone call or an outdoor coffee break. Companionship can be key to combating low mood.

While the change in time has some benefits, there are some negative effects to our health that can occur. Be sure to understand what your risks are and follow some of the tips above on transitioning to the time change.