Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Your Health?
Waking up late for work after we “spring forward” on March 8 (switching from Eastern Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time) isn’t the only potential peril of the time change. Losing sleep also can negatively affect your health.
Mood, memory, motivation
“When we lose sleep, it affects all of the systems of the body,” says family medicine physician Natalie Bieber, DO, with LVPG Family Medicine–Easton. “We may feel less focused and motivated or notice mood and memory changes. Sleep loss may weaken our immune systems, leaving us more susceptible to viral illness.”
Studies show the time change increases your risk for accidents and heart attacks, including a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries the Monday after daylight saving time starts. Another study found that the number of heart attacks rose by 5 percent the first few days after the clock change.
Prolonged sleep loss
“Sleep loss activates the part of the nervous system that deals with stress, and this increases blood pressure and inflammation,” says pulmonologist Richard Strobel, MD, with LVPG Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Over a prolonged period of time, sleep loss can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, depression and other health problems.”
If you typically get plenty of sleep and have no risk for heart disease, the time change won’t likely affect you. However, if you are chronically sleep-deprived, already at high risk for heart disease or just want to be on your “A” game, here are tips to help you avoid “daylight saving syndrome.”
Daylight saving syndrome tips
- A week before the clock change: Shift your sleep schedule. “Go to bed and wake 15 to 30 minutes earlier than usual,” Strobel says. That way the clock change won’t be as significant a shock to your system.
- The night of the clock change: Resist any temptation to induce sleep with alcohol. “While it might help you fall asleep, alcohol leads to less restful sleep,” Bieber says.
- The first few days after the clock change: Drink plenty of water and reach for wholesome, high-fiber foods rather than sugar-coated treats. An apple with peanut butter makes for a great energizing breakfast.
- For the rest of the year: Prioritize sleep, aiming for seven to eight hours every night. Also get plenty of exercise, as it helps improve sleep, and keep your wake time consistent weekdays and weekends.