Health Scoop

Does Daylight Savings Time Affect Health?




SO YOU SHED the winter gear and it’s finally a bearable fifty degrees outside, but you suddenly find yourself yawning more even after a good night ‘s sleep.  A lukewarm spring beginning is a welcome surprise after a dreary winter, but it doesn’t come without its down side. One reason for this is the disruption in our circadian rhythms experienced when we turn clocks forward when ‘springing’ into daylight savings time.

“I’m late, I’m late for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” – White Rabbit, Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Circadian misalignment, associated with seasonal changes, daylight savings time and jet lag, decreases vagal cardiac modulation, the synchrony of the physiological action of the heart. It also decreases the excretion of the  stress hormone epinephrine from the body, meaning it may be floating around in our bloodstream a little longer. Both lead to increased fatigue. 

Inflammatory markers triggered by stress (like in the form of a screaming alarm clock an hour before we are ready to hear it), also go up. These markers, including interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, resistin, and tumor necrosis factor-a can lead to weight gain, sugar cravings, fatigue, and fatty plaque formation in the arteries that leads to an elevated blood pressure later in life.

Studies have shown that when we lose an hour of sleep, the rate of heart attacks increases. Researchers found a significant increase in acute myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) in the first 3 days after clocks were turned forward in the spring.

So as the birds begin to collect on tree branches, and you find yourself downing an extra cup of coffee after lunch next week, offset the ‘spring effect’ with:

Nutrition: Increase your vitamin intake with more fruits and veggies and cut out the sedating heavy winter comfort foods.

Exercise: Hit the gym. Celebrate spring with a post-work/class bike ride. Sign up for a tennis lesson.

Meditate: It does wonders for your stress level. Download one of these apps.

Pay attention to sleep hygiene: Try to stay away from iPads, laptops and cell phones in bed. Using these devices in bed disturbs sleep patterns.

Eat more chocolate: Yes, chocolate. It contains psychoactive chemicals, like anandamines which stimulate the brain in the same way as cannabis does, mellowing out mood. Tyramine and phenylethylamine boost energy levels since they have stimulant properties similar to amphetamine. (Just be sure to munch on the natural kind!)

Ref: Janszky, et al. Shifts to and from Daylight Saving Time and Incidence of Myocardial Infarction. NEJM: 2012

Morris et al. Circadian misalignment increases cardiovascular disease risk factors in humans. PNAS. 2016.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Tammy
    March 14, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    When you say “Eat more chocolate” do you mean dark chocolate or other? I think you need to elaborate a bit more on this because all chocolate is not created the same.

    • Reply
      Sabina
      March 14, 2017 at 10:26 pm

      That’s very true. There is a lot of candy out there that tries to pass as “chocolate”. Dark chocolate has a higher proportion of flavanols than milk chocolate, and is the better choice (of course, in moderation). Look for >70% cacao and up.

      Plain milk chocolate also has a good proportion of similar benefits, but often has added milk fats and flair (like caramel, nougat) that dilute the healthy properties.
      (http://www.consumerreports.org/chocolate-bars/milk-chocolate-health-benefits/)

      If you detest the bitterness of dark chocolate, you can opt for pure milk chocolate like Perugina: https://www.perugina.com/it.

  • Reply
    Glynnis
    March 17, 2017 at 6:04 am

    I find Daylight Savings Time so confusing but it’s a fact of life. I wish I live in Arizona or Hawaii so I won’t have to deal with DST.

  • Reply
    Horace
    March 17, 2017 at 11:59 am

    DST affects health? Not that visibly I think. But it did affect my schedule-keeping ability though! As an Asian who is not used to this thing, I got really messed up by this when I had to go Stateside for a while. I especially agree with the “eat more chocolate” advice the most!

  • Reply
    Mau
    March 17, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    I never really thought that daylight savings time would affect my health but I guess I thought wrong. And unfortunately, I’m one of those people who sleep with my mobile phone nearby. 🙁 Should definitely plan to exercise more, eat better and do away with the gadgets.

  • Reply
    Ben
    March 24, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Quality sleep is important to everyone’s life. It is how we all recharge.

  • Reply
    Nancy P.
    March 24, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Hit the gym, great advice! This always seems to work wonders for me overall. And I sleep better after a great workout too!

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