How a one-hour change messes everyone up
Daylight Savings Time—three words guaranteed to elicit a few sighs and eye-rolls.
Why do we dislike Daylight Savings Time? It's more than just remembering to change the clocks. It reminds us of the passage of time: Like birthdays, doing your taxes, or another season of The Bachelor. It's as if we say, "Oh, right. I guess it's time for this again."
There are many questions about why we continue to participate in this time-honored tradition, but Daylight Savings Time is worth discussing because of what it does to our bodies; and most importantly, our hearts.
Health Facts about Daylight Savings Time
One study published in Open Heart found a 25% jump in the number of heart attacks occurring the Monday after Daylight Savings starts, compared to other Mondays during the year.
A 2016 study found that the overall rate for stroke was 8% higher in the two days after the time change.
Cancer victims were 25% more likely to have a stroke during that time, and people older than 65 were 20% more likely to have a stroke.
Tiredness induced by the time change is part of the reason for the increase in traffic accidents on the following Monday. It has been linked to more workplace injuries and can even hinder moral decision making.
Why is This Happening?
There are a variety of reasons why this can produce significant health risks. The combination of stress and loss of sleep can be difficult on the body for a lot of people. Notably, it impacts those who already have health issues that predispose them to a heart attack or stroke, such as high blood pressure or poor physical or mental health.
Even if you're not predisposed to one of the severe consequences, Daylight Savings Time can still be a struggle. To put it simply, it can mess up our daily rhythms. "When we change the time by one hour, it throws a monkey wrench into our circadian process," says Christopher Barnes, associate professor at the University of Washington.
Sleep deprivation is real. "The following Monday," notes Barnes, "people have about 40 minutes less sleep. Because we're already short on sleep to begin with, the effects of even 40 minutes are noticeable."
How to Prepare
There are some simple ways to handle this transition and help you avoid those negative health consequences:
- Don't eat before bed; and turn off your phone before going to sleep. These things don't help you get the restful sleep your body needs.
- Set your alarm clock a little earlier than normal on the days leading up to the change. It can make it easier on your body come Monday.
- Eat breakfast Monday morning, particularly foods that help boost heart health. Food is a way of telling your body that it's time to start the day.
- Get exercise. Your body needs it anyway! Being outside in the sunlight helps your body clock to adjust.