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Your Health and Daylight Saving Time

It's not without problems setting your watch one hour forward to Daylight Saving Time. There are those who complain that it affects their health, mood and body clocks.

Illustration image
One less hour in bed when DST starts.
Loosing an hour of sleep when DST starts can affect your mood.
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A recent study found a link between heart attack incidences and daylight saving time. However, researchers have suggested a number of possible solutions in combating the physiological effects of the daylight saving changes.

Health Issues

Many people say that daylight saving time affects their sleeping patterns and body clocks. Drowsiness, headaches and additional stress are among the complaints given by those who feel negatively affected by daylight saving time.

One study found that incidences of heart attacks increased significantly for the first three week days after the transition to daylight saving time in the spring. In contrast, there were fewer incidences of heart attacks after the transition from daylight saving to standard time in the autumn. The study found that the most plausible explanation for the findings is the adverse effect of sleep deprivation on cardiovascular health.

Disrupts Body Clock

The study also reported that transitions into daylight saving time could disrupt chronobiologic rhythms and influence the duration and quality of sleep, which lasts for many days after the shifts. According to the researchers, the study also provides a possible explanation for heart attacks most commonly occurring on Mondays. This study, titled “ Shifts to and from Daylight Saving Time and Incidence of Myocardial Infarction”, was conducted by Imre Janszky and Rickard Ljungand and was published in “The New England Journal of Medicine” on October 30, 2008.

Another study, printed in “Current Biology” in 2007 and titled “The Human Circadian Clock's Seasonal Adjustment Is Disrupted by Daylight Saving Time”, indicates that the human circadian system does not adjust to daylight saving time and that its seasonal adaptation to the changing photoperiods is disrupted by the introduction of summer time. This disruption may extend to other aspects of seasonal biology in humans.

Mental Health Issues

Two studies give a different light to the impact of daylight saving time on the human condition, particularly regarding mental health. Both studies were published in 2008. One study linked daylight saving time with suicide rates, while the other study found that it had no effect on manic episodes.

The first study, titled “Small shifts in diurnal rhythms are associated with an increase in suicide: The effect of daylight saving ”, used Australian suicide data from 1971 to 2001 to determine the impact on the number of suicides of a one-hour time shift due to daylight saving. The results confirm that male suicide rates rise in the weeks following the commencement of daylight saving compared to the weeks following the return to Eastern Standard Time (EST) and for the rest of the year. After adjusting for the season, prior to 1986 suicide rates in the weeks following the end of daylight saving remained significantly increased compared to the rest of autumn. This study suggests that small changes in chronobiological rhythms are potentially destabilizing in vulnerable individuals.

Manic episodes

The other study,called “Daylight saving time transitions and hospital treatments due to accidents or manic episodes”, found that transitions into or out of daylight saving time had no significant effect on the incidence of accidents or manic episodes. The study explored transitions in and out of daylight saving time and its effect on accidents and manic episodes in Finland during 1987 to 2003.

Exercise and Light Helps

Exercise in form of a brisk walk or run can help people adjust to the advanced clocks. Biologist David Glass of Kent State University (cited in ABC News) suggests that a brisk walk or run stimulates the serotonin release in the brain and other types of neurotransmitters that will phase-advance the clock.

Another suggestion is to gain exposure to bright natural light for an hour or two. According to “Harvard University Gazette”, people can adjust their daily rhythms by sitting in front of so called light boxes, which are banks of fluorescent bulbs that emit two to three times more light than found in a typical room at home. This type of light is bright white light.

To eat earlier – tricking the body to think it is later by eating dinner early (and avoiding caffeine and alcohol) may help to fall asleep sooner. Melatonin regulates cycles of sleep and wakefulness, and, under medical supervision, a low dosage of melatonin may help.

Medical Devices

On another health note, in March 2008 Health Canada reminded people using medical devices or systems with internal clocks to check that they continued to worked properly during the daylight saving switch.

Examples of medical devices that could be affected by the change include (but are not limited to): implanted pacemakers/defibrillators with sleep modes that can only be adjusted by physicians; holter monitors, used to continuously record heartbeat; and glucose monitors that store data on glucose levels. Though users of these devices may be inconvenienced by the need to reset equipment timers, there is no safety risk to users of these devices, according to Health Canada.

Disclaimer:

This article provides general information only. Information on this site is not a substitute for professional health care advice.

Topics: Daylight Saving Time

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DST Library

  1. History of DST
  2. History of DST in Europe
  3. Your health and DST
  4. Controversy of DST
  5. 1 hour back or forward?
  6. Summer or Winter Time?
  7. Savings or Saving?

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