Daylight Saving Time Can Affect Your Health as Well as Your Clock

October 28, 2016 Paul M. Laband, MD

tips-for-coping-with-daylight-saving-timeRemember to "fall back" and set your clocks back an hour tonight.

It’s that time of year again when we have to remember to reset all of our clocks to “fall back” for Daylight Saving Time. Since a federal law was enacted in America in 1966, residents in most states have adjusted their clocks twice a year. But our bodies also have to make an adjustment to the time change, and some research says it can affect our health.

“There have been many studies that have reported on the health problems that a lack of sleep can cause, such as a greater risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression,” says Paul M. Laband, MD, an internal medicine physician with St.Joseph Health Medical Group in Napa. “Daylight Saving Time, especially when we ‘spring forward’ an hour and lose some crucial rest, can interfere with our body’s natural wake and sleep cycles.”

Dr. Laband adds that we should take advantage of the fall time change, when we get back the hour of sleep we lose in spring.

“It can be a good time to play catch up if you haven’t been getting the rest you need. Don’t stay up later knowing you’ll get that extra hour with the time change—going to sleep at the usual time will help your body’s sleep/wake cycle stay balanced.”

Besides, you may want to take advantage of the earlier hours of daylight.

“With nighttime coming earlier again, this season is the prime time for seasonal affective disorder, which can cause symptoms of depression, fatigue and weight gain,” Dr. Laband says. “Getting exposure to light early in the day—and throughout the day, either by spending time outdoors or using a light box device inside—can be a mood booster and help with the adjustment to the time change.”

Establishing healthy sleep habits during this time is important because it can help you transition in spring when Daylight Saving Time comes around again.

“Studies have shown the spring switchover can be detrimental—findings include a higher number of heart attacks the Monday after the time change, less productivity in the workplace and a possible upturn in cortisol, the body’s so-called stress hormone,” Dr. Laband says.

“Whether it’s the fall or spring time change, it’s essential to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night in order to help you—and your body—function at its best.” 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

 

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