13 Ways Daylight Saving Is Wrecking Your Health
This time-honored practice of setting clocks forward one hour every spring comes with a few unexpected consequences for your mind, body, and soul.
You’ll lose your rhythm
Your circadian rhythm—an internal clock—regulates things like your digestion, metabolism, and your sleep-wake cycle. “Our brain relies on sunlight to understand when it’s time to wake up, and when it’s time to go to sleep,” explains Keith Cushner, founder of the sleep site Tuck.com. “During daylight saving time (DST), our internal clock tells us it’s evening, but if our brain still sees light outside, it assumes it should stay awake.” The brain mixes up the release of key hormones as a result, which explains why it is much more difficult for people to adjust their sleep schedule to DST, he says.
You’ll feel jet lagged
“When we set our clocks forward one hour, our brain isn’t tired because it’s still light outside,” Cushner explains. “As a result, we have trouble falling asleep when it’s bedtime, and an even tougher time waking up the next day.” What’s crazy is that studies confirm that humans never truly adjust to DST. “Our circadian rhythms dictate our sleep-wake cycles, not what the clock says,” Cushner adds.
You’ll be sleep deprived
Given that as many as one in three adults don’t get enough sleep as it is, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s no surprise that DST is enough to make things worse. “With an aging population comes health-disturbed sleep—things like insomnia associated with nocturia (waking two or more times at night to use the bathroom) impacts more than 40 million Americans,” says Thomas Roth, PhD, founder of the Sleep Disorders Center and Research Center at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Don’t miss these things sleep doctors never do during daylight saving time.
You’ll be more vulnerable to illness
Your immune system protects you from sicknesses large and small, and sleep happens to be key in maintaining your immunity. Deprive your body of rest and you’ll be more susceptible to viruses, bacteria, and even cancer. “There is data that shows middle and high school students’ absenteeism due to illness can be predicted based on their amount of sleep,” says Dr. Roth. “What’s more, if you’re sleep deprived and a doctor gives you a shot for immunization, the vaccination can be ineffective.”
You could feel depressed
“The nearly full hour of sleep loss experienced after DST results in sleep deprivation that triggers mental health disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, as well as general moodiness,” explains Cushner. In fact, the incidence of depression increases by 11 percent after DST, according to research published in the journal Epidemiology.
You’ll take longer to recover from workouts
During deep sleep, your body works to restore and repair your muscles; during REM sleep, your brain consolidates muscle memory. “When your sleep is cut short by 40 minutes due to DST, we experience lesser amounts of both deep and REM sleep,” he says. Here’s what happens when you don’t get enough sleep.
You can get cluster headaches
The shifts in circadian rhythms are one of the reasons people get this agonizing pain that tends to hit just one side of the head. While less than 1 percent of the population gets them, many sufferers report an increase in instances of cluster headaches around daylight saving time. Another culprit is the increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which can also be triggered by daylight saving time.
DST might interfere with fertility methods
While a loss of a pregnancy can be caused by several factors, one of those may be daylight saving time, suggests new research. One study published by Boston Medical Center (BMC) analyzed miscarriage rates in IVF patients and found that rates were higher among women who had received an embryo transfer in the 21 days following DST. While the study may prove some kind of connection between fertility and circadian rhythm, they were not able to prove that DST caused the IVF rates to drop.
You could be at risk of a stroke
For people already in the high-risk category, daylight saving time could worsen their risk, according to research. Finnish researchers found a slight increase in stroke-related hospitalizations within the two days following the time change. “This seems to indicate that people with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to the negative consequences of throwing off the body’s circadian rhythm,” says Chris Brantner, certified sleep coach and founder of sleepzoo.com.
You’re more likely to be injured on the job
Of course, work-related injuries happen every day, with nearly 3 million happening in a given year, according to statistics released by the US Department of Labor. But research shows that they’re more likely to happen around daylight saving time. In an analysis out of Michigan State University, not only did workplace injuries go up 5.7 percent the Monday after a time change, but the severity of workplace injuries jumped, shares Brantner: Employees lost 67.6 percent more work days due to the injuries sustained the Monday after DST. Find out the two states that don’t observe daylight saving time.
You could be more likely to have a car accident
A recent report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who slept for only five or six hours within a 24-hour period are two times as likely to get into a car accident than drivers who clocked at least seven hours of sleep. “Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous, yet it is common, causing an estimated 100,000 accidents each year,” says Cushner. “Depending on the level of sleep deprivation, drowsy driving after 18 straight hours is equivalent to driving with a blood-alcohol content of .05.”
Kids do worse at school
There’s a good reason parents encourage their kids to go to bed early: In addition to sleep helping them stay healthy, it also improves academic performance. “Investigators have found test scores are reduced in the week following the time shift when compared to test scores the week prior in students,” says Sara Nowakowsk, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral sleep medicine. “One study even looked at Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores in schools in counties observing daylight savings with those remaining on standard time year round, and found lower mean SAT scores for schools in counties that observed daylight savings.”
Your work will suffer
“In some workplaces, sleep loss may simply mean more slacking off, but in workplaces where workers have an impact on the lives of others, it can have serious consequences,” explains Cushner. “When employees are less focused, they’re more prone to error—putting themselves and others at risk.” It’s no surprise that research has found that workplace injuries increase in both severity and volume the Monday following DST. Find out the 6 reasons why it might be a good idea to get rid of daylight saving time.
Avoid trouble with this DST strategy
“In general, anything that throws your body off its natural circadian rhythm can lead to negative health consequences, both physically and mentally,” says Brantner. “If you’re already struggling to get enough sleep, turning the clock forward an hour and having to go to work a day later can lead to dire consequences, and if nothing else, a crummy week.” The good news? There are ways to prepare for DST and even minimize the consequences, starting with going to bed a little bit earlier each day for a week prior to the time change. “Get up nice and early so that come bedtime, you’ll be tired enough to get to sleep,” adds Brantner. Next, here are more ways you can deal with the end of daylight saving time.