Are you ready to lose an hour of sleep? Getting enough sleep to function is hard enough without forcing our bodies to “spring forward”. Daylight Saving Time is a great reminder that spring is on its way. Who doesn’t like warmer weather and longer days of sunshine? However, that tiny one-hour difference shifts our internal clock. Our internal clock (or circadian rhythm) synchronizes with daylight. It acts as a time cue in setting our 24-hour cycle. Disruption of our “master clock” negatively impacts daily functions including hormone secretion, response time, metabolism, and quality of sleep.
Daylight Saving Time effects last longer than one night
Circadian rhythm naturally aligns our bodies with sunrise, and all the hormones used for overall health align with sunrise as well. A 2014 study analyzed the effects of Daylight Saving Time, sunrise and cortisol levels. Their findings suggest a strong correlation between the time of sunrise and the amount of cortisol released in the morning. For every hour the body was awake before dawn, there was a 5% increase in cortisol levels. Studies also show an increase in cortisol levels in sleep-deprived individuals. The Day Light Saving “spring forward” doesn’t just result in less sleep. Throwing your circadian rhythm out of sync also increases stress, reduces the ability to cope with stress, and exacerbates other chronic health issues. One hour of lost sleep might not seem like much, but the circadian rhythm disruption can make you feel out of sync for weeks afterward.
“Springing forward” might be bad for your heart
Circadian rhythm also synchronizes other important functions in the body; heart health, body temperature, glucose management, blood pressure, mental acuity, immunity, and metabolism. Studies show have shown multifaceted effects of Daylight Saving Time on underlying health issues. Most surprising is a significant increase in acute myocardial infarction following Daylight Saving Times “spring forward”! A 2019 meta-analysis on the correlation between Daylight Saving Time and increased risk of heart attack confirmed a significant increase in acute myocardial infarction, within 2 weeks following the spring shift.
Be careful commuting to work this week
Decreased reaction time and increased daytime sleepiness are common symptoms after the spring shift. Though sleepiness is an expected, accepted result of losing an hour of sleep, the buildup of sleep deprivation may ruin your day more than you realize. A study in 2018 evaluating 12.6 million accident claims in New Zealand over an 11-year period found a 16% increase in road accidents the day following the change to Daylight Saving Time. Surprisingly, accidents for the entire week were elevated. In fact, the rise in accident levels didn’t peak until the first Friday after Daylight Saving Time. Data shows that Friday accident rates were 19% higher than Monday, and then quickly declined over the weekend. These results confirm that our ability to recover from just that one hour shift takes more than a week.
Our circadian rhythm keeps our sleep on schedule and coordinates many other critical functions in our body. “Springing forward” causes a temporary circadian imbalance which not only deprives us of sleep but reduces our ability to respond to stress and react to challenges around us.
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