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An hour at what cost? The Harmful Effects of Daylight Saving

5 Nov. 2021 – Early this Sunday morning, we’ll win an hour marking more than 100 years of “relapse” – and doctors say it’s a perfect opportunity to counteract the negative health effects of daylight saving time.

When summer time ends in spring again, we will lose an hour. It may not sound like much, but studies have linked it to increased traffic accidents, higher rates of stroke, and a bump in heart attacks. And while many people are taking the extra hour to wake up this weekend, sleep experts say using that time for sleep can make a significant difference in your health.

“Consistency in the timing of when we sleep and wake up is just as important as the duration of the time we sleep, and there is a lot of research on the adverse effects,” says Charles Czeisler, MD, head of the Sleep Division. and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It is always good to get an hour more sleep, as long as people use it. If they go to bed at their usual time and wake up an hour later, it will have health benefits. ”

Daylight saving, which was started to save energy, forces our internal watches to compete with our watches. Inside the brain’s hypothalamus is a “master” called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which use hormonal and chemical signals to synchronize time through the body.

Our internal clocks regulate processes including liver function, the Immune system, and our body’s physiology, which means that any disruption can have significant consequences.

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, and people with Cancer was 25% more likely to have a stroke than at other times of the year. People older than 65 were 20% more likely.

a 2019 report found a higher risk of heart attack after both time changes, but especially during daylight saving time.

Interruptions in circadian rhythm can also impair focus and judgment. A 2020 study found that fatal traffic accidents increased by 6% in the United States during daylight saving time.

“Most people think an hour would be unimportant,” Czeisler says. “And it is true that we can adapt. But even that small adjustment does have consequences. ”

Although “relapse” gives you a chance to catch up on lost sleep, it can also be a difficult adjustment, says Ramiz Fargo, MD, medical director for the Sleep Disorder Center and a sleep medicine doctor at Loma Linda University Health.

It can also be difficult for people with mood disorders, he says. A study showed that hospitals reported an 11% increase in depressive symptoms just after the fall time change. It could be the result of lost daylight, he says.

But there are ways to make the transition easier and increase your chances of taking full advantage of the extra hours. If possible, says Fargo, it’s helpful to make minor adjustments to your schedule in the days before the time change. This, he says, could make a smoother transition.

“Start sleeping 15-20 minutes early the days beforehand,” he says. “It will help your body get used to the difference.”

Other tips include:

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine – both common causes of poor sleep.
  • Avoid too much screen time before bedtime.
  • Limit daytime naps to regulate your sleep schedule.
  • Avoid heavy meals within a few hours before bedtime.

“The key is, if your schedule allows you to do it, go to bed when the clock says it’s an hour earlier,” says Czeisler. “If you’ve burned the candle on both sides and you’re chronically sleep deprived, which most people are, this weekend is your chance to work on it.”

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