Does Daylight Savings Time Hurt Your Heart?
Spring forward, lose your life?
Daylights savings time is a controversial topic. Critics claim it’s archaic, it ruins productivity and it costs the economy millions of dollars. What’s scariest of all, though, is what it can do to your health.
According to several studies, heart attacks and strokes increase during the first few days after daylight savings time. In contrast, one study showed the risk for heart attack dropped by 21 percent on the Tuesday after the fall time change.
Why does this happen? Dr. Michael Gradner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson, told the American Heart Association that the disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm can throw off other systems in the body. On average, researchers predict that people get 40 minutes less sleep because of the time change in the spring.
“If you look under the car hood, you see lots of belts and gears and pistons and all sorts of parts that have their own rhythms, but which are related to each other," he said. "The body has lots of similar rhythms, so anything from the rhythm of your blood pressure, to the rhythm of your body temperature, your hormones, how you metabolize blood sugar or consolidate memories. All of these systems are within the same body and many are at least indirectly related to each other."
And it’s not just heart attacks and strokes. Scientists believe our bodies can’t fully recover from the change for weeks. This causes an increase in human error, which can range from the mundane, like forgetfulness and loss of productivity, to the life changing. Researchers estimate that sleep-related car crashes around daylight savings time cost 30 extra people their lives between 2002 and 2011. Research also shows there’s an increase in suicides during this time.
So what can you do to help yourself? Keep calm, and keep your sleep schedule as normal as possible. Make sure you’re caught up on your sleep if you’re feeling deprived, especially the days leading up to the switch. Also, avoid stimulants like caffeine and try to get some extra Vitamin D.