News / Mental Health

Side effects of daylight saving time.

Springing forward or falling back can do more damage than just making you sleepy.

The daylight-saving time change will force most of us to spring forward and advance our clocks one hour. This effectively moves an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, giving us those long summer nights. But waking up Monday morning may not be so easy, having lost an hour of precious sleep and perhaps driving to work in the dark with an extra jolt of java. How time changes actually affect you depends on your own personal health, sleep habits, and lifestyle.

The case against daylight saving time goes far beyond the mild inconvenience many feel in spring. It turns out, there is a ton of data that points to the negative effects the change in time has on our bodies.

Our bodies may never adjust to the new time

A group of German researchers believes that our bodies never actually adjust to daylight saving time, and that artificially altering our circadian rhythm can be damaging for our health.

They found that the body had no trouble adjusting to the ending of daylight saving time in the fall (when we gain an hour), but may never quite makes the adjustment to the change in the spring (when we lose an hour).

The time change reduces the duration and 'efficiency' of sleep

A 2006 study out of Finland monitored the sleep patterns of people for 10 days surrounding the transition to daylight saving time. They found that the resulting decrease in sleep by about one hour reduced a person's sleep efficiency by 10 percent.

It could result in more heart attacks

Scientists looked at the data from patients in Michigan hospitals from 2010 to 2013. They found that on the Monday after daylight saving time went into effect, there were 25 percent more heart attacks than on a standard Monday.

Another study that took place in Sweden found that the chance of suffering from a heart attack increases during the first three weekdays after the March daylight saving shift.

Increase suicide risk for vulnerable individuals

A 2008 study found that, for individuals with bipolar disorder, large disruptions in sleep patterns can be severe, and potentially even deadly. Researchers looked at Australian suicides from 1971 to 2001 to see if the time change had any impact on the number of recorded suicides. The results conclude that male suicide rates do indeed increase in the weeks following daylight saving time when compared to the return to eastern standard time and the rest of the year.

Increase in workplace injuries

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology looked at workplace injuries in the periods directly after the time changes associated with daylight saving time. They found that, on the Monday after an hour of sleep is lost, workers were more frequently injured and those injuries were more serious in nature. On the fall days that we gain an hour, the researchers found that there were no significant differences in the number of injuries sustained or the severity.

Lower SAT scores?

It's bad enough standardized tests are timed, but daylight saving time seems to have an influence on test-taking performance. Controlling for socioeconomic status by proxy, the principal finding was a surprisingly strong negative relationship between imposition of the time policy in a geographic area and SAT scores of local high school students.

When we're tired, we cyberloaf

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology made a link between daylight saving time and increased cyberloafing behaviors. What is cyberloafing? Basically, messing around on the Internet by checking Facebook, personal email or doing anything other than the jobs we're being paid to do during work hours. The researchers say that the study demonstrates that there is a "dramatic increase in cyberloafing" during the spring time shift.

Coping witht the time change

To combat the effects of the time transition, the National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping in Sunday morning and taking a nap that afternoon. The foundation offers some guidance as part of its Sleep Awareness Week in March.

  • Most adults need seven to nine hours to function properly.
  • Leave a couple of hours between eating and going to bed.
  • Turn off mobile devices before you head to bed. Blue light from screens can affect your ability to sleep.
  • Make your room all about sleep: Use a comfortable mattress, pillow and bedding, and keep your room dark.
  • Keep a piece of paper next to your bed. Write down any worries before trying to get to sleep.

As a society, we tend to treat sleep like a luxury or a necessary evil rather than a health issue. Both are wrong. Sleep is a gift we got when we born. Sleep makes everything better: your work, your life, your health and your relationships


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