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Is Daylight Savings Time Actually Bad for Your Health?

March 11, 2021
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Most of us are used to the “Fall back” and “Spring ahead” schedule of daylight saving time, but few people are aware of the health and public safety risks of changing our clocks. In recent years, a number of studies have shown that daylight saving time, particularly the loss of an hour in the spring, results in an increase in heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and traffic accidents. Due to these impacts the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has called for getting rid of daylight saving time altogether.

While relatively few people will suffer from the above risks, many will have a hard time adjusting to the time change. Ahead of the March 14th spring forward, here are some tips to help you and your family with the transition.

Easier on Your Body

According to Dr. Karin Johnson of Baystate Sleep Medicine, the November time change, when Daylight Saving Time ends, is usually easier on our systems because we are gaining an extra hour. The March Daylight Saving change typically results in less sleep from the hour lost and it is harder for the body’s circadian rhythms to adjust to a later time.

“Our bodies’ circadian rhythms are important for our ability to sleep at night and function well during the day, but are also important for our bodies’ health,” she said.

Longer darkness in the morning and brightness later in the day disrupt our natural rhythms.

7 Tips for Adjusting to the Time Change

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier a few days prior to the actual time change, a practice you can also use with younger children who might find it more difficult to adjust to the change. They also suggest setting your clocks ahead early on Saturday so you lose an hour of being awake instead of an hour of sleep by going to bed at your normal time. Going outside Sunday morning to get some sunlight will also help to set your “body clock.”

Baystate Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine offer the following tips to minimize any disruption to your sleep cycle whether during the switch to Daylight Saving Time or anytime:

1. Don't nap during the day.

If you must snooze, limit the time to less than one hour and no later than 3 pm.

2. Wake up at a regular time.

Adults and children should maintain a regular wake-up time, even on weekends.

3. Watch what you consume. 

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, heavy meals, and exercising a few hours before bedtime.

4. Create a bedtime routine.

Stick to rituals that help you relax before going to bed. This can include such things as a warm bath, a light snack or a few minutes of reading.

5. Create a sleep-friendly environment. 

Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and a little cool.

6. Don't take your worries to bed. 

Bedtime is a time to relax, not to hash out the stresses of the day.

7. Don't toss and turn.

If you can’t fall asleep, leave your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity. Return to bed only when you are tired.

BEYOND DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME: SLEEPING DISORDERS AND DEPRIVATION

More than half of all Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Sleep needs depend on many factors, including age. For most adults, 7-9 hours a night is recommended to achieve good health and feel your best. Experts recommend that children in pre-school sleep between 10-13 hours a night, and school-aged children between 9-11 hours of sleep a night. Teenagers, on average, need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night.

Sleep deprivation can negatively affect your health and performance, as well as jeopardize your safety and the safety of others. A sleep-deprived person is likely to have less energy and more trouble concentrating, and is also likely to make mistakes and poor decisions. If you’re overtired, you may even fall asleep during work, in class, or while driving.

Other effects of sleep deprivation include irritability, anxiety, and symptoms of depression, as well as such health risks as high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity, and diabetes.

If the switch to Daylight Saving Time causes sleep disruptions lasting longer than a few weeks, consider seeing your doctor who may recommend seeing a sleep specialist. If you don't have a primary care provider, find one now

Baystate Sleep Medicine provides the latest high-technology testing and diagnosis for all types of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, snoring, and sleepwalking. Learn more. 

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