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Daylight saving time kicks off on the onset of spring, the period between March and November. During this time, we turn our clocks forward by an hour, and at the end of spring, we turn our clocks back by an hour to return to the standard time. The practice of advancing clocks during spring moves an hour of daylight from the morning to evening, resulting in long summer nights. In the process, we end up losing an hour of our precious sleep.
Moving clocks in either direction is known to disrupt our internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm. As a result, our body's internal clock does not sync with our day and night cycle. The loss of an hour may seem harmless; however, that is not the case as it negatively affects your health. This piece uncovers how daylight saving time affects your health and safety.
Problems associated with daylight saving time
1. Heart problems
Multiple studies have established an increase in heart attacks cases at the beginning of daylight saving time season and a decrease as it comes to an end. In the 1st two days following daylight saving time transition, stroke rates increase by 8%. Findings from various research indicate that blood clots more quickly in the morning, which explains why heart attacks commonly happen during this time.
One is likely to experience sleep disruption and sleep loss in the early days of daylight saving time transition. The change makes people more vulnerable to heart problems such as heart attacks. Kindly note it does not cause heart problems, but it may exacerbate underlying conditions, thus triggering heart-related issues. Good quality sleep is vital as it is associated with several physiological changes that are thought to protect one against stroke, such as low blood pressure.
2. Low mood and depression
Studies have shown an increase in depression cases as we transition from daylight saving time to standard time. Disruption in sleep patterns causes hormonal imbalance, and as a result, many people may experience some difficulty in sleeping hence triggering irritability, anxiety, mental exhaustion, and depressive feelings. Besides that, it can cause mental illnesses such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression and bipolar disorder.
3. Car crashes
At the start of the daylight saving time in spring, there is always a spike in road fatalities. A German study found that accidents increase by 6% following the transition of daylight saving time; however, these road fatalities were not experienced on returning to standard time in the fall. Many of these accidents occur in the morning hours because many drivers are still adjusting to the change. Besides, some drivers who lose an hour of their sleep are likely to be less alert on the road.
4. Sleep effects
Many of the health effects of daily saving time are mediated by the change in sleeping patterns. Daylight saving time transition causes sleep loss, sleep latency, and sleep fragmentation in the first week. Disruption in sleep patterns may trigger an increase in energy intake, reduced energy expenditure, and insulin resistance. Some studies have found sleep deprivation to have severe health outcomes such as increased stress hormones that boost heart rate, obesity, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and mortality.
Daylight saving time significantly affects our circadian rhythm, making us less alert and fatigued. It could take days, weeks, or months to adjust to the changes; however, the body does not fully acclimate to daylight saving time.
The best way to go about these effects is by ensuring you have a bedtime routine that you follow to the latter. Also, in case you are experiencing sleep debt or deprivation, take short naps during the day. Make sure each nap does not exceed 20 minutes; otherwise, you may wake up groggy.
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