On Sunday, most Americans will set their clocks forward one hour for Daylight Savings Time. Aside from the obvious headache of losing an hour of sleep, there are several subtle ways the time change could negatively affect your health.
Because Daylight Savings Time messes with your circadian rhythm, it throws off protective biological processes that help to keep you healthy. That’s why emergency rooms throughout the nation see more incidents of ischemic stroke in the days following the time change, according to research.
“Previous studies have shown that disruptions in a person’s circadian rhythm, also called an internal body clock, increase the risk of ischemic stroke, so we wanted to find out if daylight saving time was putting people at risk,” Jori Ruuskanen, MD, PhD, who authored a 2016 study examining stroke and Daylight Savings Time, said.
Science Daily outlined his study thusly:
For the study, researchers looked at a decade of data for stroke in Finland to find the rate of stroke. They compared the rate of stroke in 3,033 people hospitalized during the week following a daylight saving time transition to the rate of stroke in a group of 11,801 people hospitalized either two weeks before or two weeks after that week.
Researchers found that the overall rate of ischemic stroke was 8 percent higher during the first two days after a daylight saving time transition. There was no difference after two days.
People with cancer were 25 percent more likely to have a stroke after daylight saving time than during another period. The risk was also higher for those over age 65, who were 20 percent more likely to have a stroke right after the transition. Hospital deaths from stroke did not increase in the week after a daylight saving time transition.
In addition to increasing stroke risk, Daylight Savings Time can also wreak havoc on your mental health because of the same circadian disruption.
Researches in Germany and the UK have reported an overall drop in happiness across populations in the week after Daylight Savings Time kicks in. And a study published in Epidemiology shows that hospitals experience about a 10 percent increase in patients seeking care for depression following the shift back to Standard Time in the fall.
The bottom line is that you need to invest in some self-care to offset the loss of sleep we’ll all be experiencing beginning Sunday. Try to go to bed an hour earlier than usual and be sure to practice good sleep hygiene by shutting off your phone and other electronic devices well before bedtime.