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Health Solutions to Swing to Daylight Saving Time

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For some people, it is not easy winding the clock forward by one hour as part of the Daylight Saving Time (also referred to as Daylight Savings Time) schedule. There are those who complain that daylight saving time affects their health, mood and body clocks, and that their sleeping patterns are out of synchronization.

Furthermore, 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.

A recent 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.

Moreover, the study 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.

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.

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.

Possible Health Solutions

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 "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.

Other suggestions are: to take low dosage melatonin supplements to boost melatonin levels, as melatonin regulates cycles of sleep and wakefulness (although it is best to consult with a qualified health care professional on this matter); and 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.

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.

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