12 Oct 5 Surprising Ways Daylight Saving Time Changes are Making You Sick
The origins of Daylight Saving Time and its purported benefits are widely misunderstood, with the various myths and legends surrounding it varying by country. What we do with changing the clocks now isn’t at all what those who coined the concept intended, though the noble goal was to enable people to stop “wasting” sunlight by sleeping through the early-morning rays.
While having the sun set later and having more daylight in the evening is great, there are some serious side effects of both the time changes and the earlier sunsets in the winters that are making many of us sick.
1) Sleep Deprivation
A lot of how Daylight Saving Time (DST) impacts your body is centered around the clock changes. That hour of sleep you lose when move the clocks forward in the Spring or send them backwards in Fall.
These abrupt time changes throw our circadian rhythms out of whack, which can take days or weeks to self-correct. Like the giant puppet master of your body, it orchestrates everything from your hormones to your level of willpower. Your circadian rhythm doesn’t just set your sleep schedule. You really don’t “gain” one hour in the fall, it messes up your sleep schedule and you actually lose needed sleep over the course of weeks.
It may not sound like much, but the average American is only getting about 6.8 hours of sleep each night, per the latest Gallop poll. As most of us know, the recommended amount is 7-8 hours each night, which means our nation is already chronically sleep-deprived. Losing sleep literally puts your skills on par with being drunk until you get some serious shuteye again.
2) Seasonal Affective Disorder
About one-in-four suffers from something called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. This condition is a type of depression that arrives in the colder months and then fades with the spring. Symptoms include having depression, lethargy, appetite changes, and sleep issues. Experts believe it’s at least partly caused by diminished sunlight, and light therapy is often touted as a cure. In other words, you need to get as much exposure to natural light as possible to help prevent and manage SAD. The problem is, the winter switchover essentially “steals” the hour of light from the end of the day that you might be getting, and applies it to the morning, when you’re already at work or getting ready for work. Danish researchers actually conducted a scientific study to see how the shifting times impacted people, and noted an 11% increase in SAD that lasted about 10 weeks after the time change.
When you force yourself to change your schedule, be it because you’re traveling through different time zones or because of the changing clock, your circadian rhythm has to catch up. Your internal clock is dictated in the hypothalamus of the brain, and it can struggle for as much as three months, setting off a series of cluster headaches with every single time shift.
“The circadian rhythm influences numerous bodily functions including metabolic, physiologic, and behavioral changes,” says Dr. Teshamae Monteith, an assistant professor of clinical neurology and director of the headache program under the general neurology division at the University of Miami, but his team isn’t just concerned about headaches these days. According to a recent study, the risk for ischemic stroke jumps by about 8% for the first two days after the clocks switch over. “Although confirmatory studies are needed, I believe this study supports the link between circadian rhythms and vascular events,” adds Monteith. What’s more, the 8% hike refers to the general population. Certain groups, particularly the elderly and cancer patients, see as much as a 25% rise in strokes.
5) Heart Attack
People who are at risk for heart disease have to make sure they get plenty of shuteye and avoid stress, but this isn’t easy to do when the clocks shift. Again, the circadian rhythm is at play here, determining just how much cortisol (the stress hormone) our bodies have at any given time. So, it’s no surprise that the spring time shift comes with a 25% increase in heart attacks.
Time to Ditch the Time Shifts?
The health risks associated with the time shifts are one of the many reasons more and more people are starting to rethink how we manage the clocks as the seasons change. If you agree that it’s time we stop adjusting the clocks, join us on Facebook or read and share more of the blogs on our site.