Spring forward: Daylight Saving Time can have serious impacts on your health

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Get ready to “spring forward.”

Daylight savings time (DST) begins on Sunday, March 10 at 2 a.m., with clocks moving ahead one hour.

The time change brings an extra hour of sunlight each day for the next eight months, but it also causes us to lose approximately 40 minutes to an hour of sleep. While it may seem like a minor inconvenience, it turns out that the loss of sleep due to DST can have serious impacts on our health and wellbeing. 

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Impact of losing sleep

Daylight saving time causes a disruption in our circadian rhythm, also referred to as our internal body clock. Circadian rhythms help determine and regulate sleeping and eating patterns for both people and animal.

The time change messes with our circadian rhythm, causing us to feel drowsy, moody and can even lead some to experience an increased appetite. Disrupted circadian rhythm can impact our motor functions, response times overall alertness which increases our likelihood of injury. 

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According to a 2009 study, there was a 3.6 per cent increase in mining workplace injuries on the Monday following DST. A separate study over a 10-year time period revealed a six per cent increase in car accidents in the United States immediately after clocks are adjusted in the spring.

Aside from being accident prone, DST can also cause an increase in heart attacks and stroke.

Dr. Amneedt Sandhu, a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado lead a study on the impact of sleep-cycle on heart health. The study revealed a 25 per cent increase in the number of reported heart attacks on the Monday following the “spring forward” compared to other Mondays during the year.

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“Perhaps the reason we see more heart attacks on Monday mornings is a combination of factors, including the stress of starting a new work week and inherent changes in our sleep-wake cycle,” Sandhu said. “With daylight saving time, all of this is compounded by one less hour of sleep. Whatever the reason, he said, the findings may indicate a need to better staff hospitals the Monday after setting our clocks forward… If we can identify days when there may be surges in heart attacks, we can be ready to better care for our patients.”

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A separate study also revealed that disruptions in circadian rhythm increased risk of an ischemic stroke, due to a clot blocking blood flow to the brain.

The research, conducted by a team from Finland, revealed that the risk of stroke was 8 per cent higher in the two days following the spring time change than during the rest of the year.

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“Looking at over a decade of stroke data, we saw a temporary increase in stroke incidence after daylight saving time transitions,” lead researcher, Dr. Jori Ruuskanen of the University of Turku told CBS News. “Although from an individual point of view, this small increase in stroke risk we see in a population level is probably not a major issue, the study emphasizes the importance of sleep disturbances as a risk factor for stroke.”

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Daylight saving time also has some serious health impacts on pregnant women, specifically those who conceived through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). A 2017 study from a team at the Boston Medical Center and IVF New England published a study noting an increase in miscarriages for patients who received egg transfer in the 21 days following spring DST, compared to patients who received egg transfer outside of the DST window.

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Experts recommend preparing for DST to help prevent impact to your circadian rhythm by going to bed an extra hour early in the days before the time change. Avoid napping in the days following the change to allow your body to adjust to the change, and avoid caffeine, nicotine and and alcohol before bed.

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