How does your Body Reacts to Daylight Saving Time?

How does your Body Reacts to Daylight Saving Time?

Springing forward an hour every year for Daylight Savings Time (DST) may be more than just a symptom of feeling tired. Recent research has revealed that there can be far-reaching and negative effects on your body due to this time change.

Dr Melissa Lipford from the Mayo Clinic claims that even an hour of sleep can have a huge impact on our mental and physical health.

Daylight saving time (DST) has been in the US since 1918, as an energy-saving measure during WW1. Recently, health issues associated with DST have led to 40 states suggesting doing away with it altogether.

The Sleep Foundation states that people get approximately 40 minutes less sleep when their clocks spring forward for Daylight Saving Time. Additionally, research shows that individuals can experience disrupted sleep patterns for multiple days or even weeks after daylight savings.

In 2019, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine conducted a survey which revealed that more than half of adults feel tired after the time change.

Even if you don’t feel tired, Jocelyn Cheng, M.D., a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's Public Safety Committee, highlights the issues caused by daylight saving time about our body's internal clock which can have far-reaching consequences if not addressed.

According to Cheng, light is the most influential factor for our biorhythms. When the morning & night light exposure is altered, this throws off our circadian rhythm and can lead to negative health & real-life issues.

Here are some of the negative changes that can result from Daylight Saving Time on your physical health.


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1. Increased chance of heart attack and stroke.

Studies have demonstrated that the beginning of daylight saving time can result in an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Specifically, a 24% rise in heart attacks and an 8% elevation in the risk of stroke have been linked to the Monday after the start of daylight saving time.

A study conducted in 2020 shows that 6,089 patient admissions at Montefiore Medical Center in New York had an increased number of patients hospitalised with atrial fibrillation after the clocks were moved forward for daylight saving time. This was a notable rise in the occurrence of A-fib, which is known to be the most common type of arrhythmia.

Researchers are still uncertain as to how daylight saving time impacts one's cardiovascular health, Dr Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and former President of the American Heart Association, theorizes that blue light's effects on our health may be linked to disrupting our body's circadian rhythm.

“Developing routines and habits contributes to the body's familiarity with a set of expectations, which in turn plays an essential role in managing stress hormones and blood pressure. Disruptions to these patterns could cause unexpected changes in these vital indicators. Heart attacks and strokes can be caused by both of these factors, potentially leading to disastrous consequences.”


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2. Affects decision-making

Poor sleep impairs judgement and cognitive abilities, leading to risky decision-making and errors. Extensive research has proven that inadequate sleep makes an individual more prone to taking chances.

Dr Sabra Abbott from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, suggests that the higher incidence of medical errors, workplace injuries and car accidents after spring-time clock resets may be a result of the disruption to people's regular routines due to the change in time.

According to Abbott, lack of sleep can disrupt the functioning of the frontal lobe in our brains and reduce our ability to control our behaviour. Sleep deprivation can lead to poor judgment and cause you to act on impulsive decisions. It is essential to get enough sleep to make wise choices.

A recent study has found that fatal car accidents rose by 6% in the week following Daylight Saving Time when people adjusted their clocks in spring. The study used ten years' worth of vehicle accident data to come to this conclusion. The study authors attributed the spike in heart attack occurrences to circadian misalignment and sleep deprivation, with no similar increase seen when people gained an extra hour of sleep during the fall.


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3. Issues with memory retention and concentration.

Studies have demonstrated that inadequate sleep can lead to impaired memory, reduced attention span and difficulty concentrating.

Daylight Savings Time has been known to cause decreased productivity and higher levels of distraction the day after, with a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology showing that “cyberloafing” — using the internet for personal activities instead of work — is more common on Mondays following the switch.

Lipford states that during sleep, a variety of important activities take place in our brains. Without sufficient deep sleep, we cannot effectively multitask, acquire new skills or focus on tasks at hand.


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4. Cravings and Appetite changes

Experts have warned that the week after Daylight Saving Time, it is quite common to experience increased levels of hunger.

You are likely experiencing hunger pangs due to eating at a later hour than usual, as well as changes in hormone levels in your brain. Not getting enough sleep causes an increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin, while reducing the satiety hormone leptin. This can lead to a vicious cycle of over-eating and restlessness.

Studies have demonstrated that when our bodies lack sleep, we are more likely to make unhealthy food choices. This can be attributed to the fact that energy-dense & sugary foods like pizza and doughnuts give us a quick burst of energy. Therefore, when hunger pangs strike and you're sleep deprived, these are the foods you may tend to reach for.


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5. Increased irritation level

Sleep deprivation can have a significant effect on your emotions and behaviour. It can make you more prone to outbursts, impatience, and irritability. Therefore it is important to get a good night's sleep to maintain an even mood.

Research has demonstrated that judges may exhibit negative moods after the start of daylight saving time, leading to more punitive sentences. This indicates an unconscious bias in the judicial system which must be addressed.

Make a Smooth Transition to Daylight Saving Time by Taking Care of Your Body.

  • Start adjusting in advance. Prepare for the time change by going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each night. This gradual adjustment helps make the transition smoother and less jarring for your body.

  • Make an effort to start your days in natural daylight: Making sure to get exposure to morning light when you wake up is a great way to reset your internal clock and energize you for the day. If going outside is not possible, try finding a window in your home or workspace to get some natural sunlight.

  • Practice a good sleep routine: To maximize the benefits of the time change and promote better sleep, create a dark, quiet and cool bedroom. Alcohol & excessive use of electronics should be kept to a minimum in the evening while setting up a soothing night-time routine will help you relax.

  • Avoid midday caffeine: Avoiding the midday energy crash by consuming caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns and affect your ability to get quality rest. It is best to stick to natural energy sources or methods of managing fatigue during the day.

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