Moving the clocks an hour ahead has health consequences for many Americans
It’s that time of year when certain parts of the country make the switch to Daylight Savings Time (DST). And while turning the clock ahead may only take a moment, it can take several days for your body to fully adjust to the switch. And there are health consequences because of that lag.
Studies indicate that there is a significant increase in the number of car accidents every year during this annual spring shift to DST, with the greatest increase on the Monday immediately following the time change. Research also shows an uptick in the number of heart attacks following that early Sunday morning forwarding of the clock.
To avoid spending the week gulping down extra coffee during the early morning darkness, unsuccessfully battling the mental fog that has enveloped your brain, and putting yourself at risk on the roadways, follow a few key steps that can help you reset your body clock to Daylight Savings Time.
Circadian rhythms and biological clocks
“Circadian rhythms” refers to the bodily changes -- mental, physical, and behavioral -- that naturally follow a 24-hour cycle. These circadian rhythms respond primarily to light and dark. “Biological clocks” are the built in timing devices in every tissue and organ of the body that regulate our cycle of circadian rhythms. A master clock located in the brain acts like a master switchboard, coordinating all the biological clocks and keeping them in sync.
Given that all of these complex functions are working together simultaneously, it’s no wonder that adjusting the clocks to Daylight Savings Time -- and its impact on circadian patterns -- has negative health consequences in the form of behavioral responses and physiological adjustments.
Tips For Helping Your Body Adjust To Daylight Savings Time
Studies show that moving the clocks forward every spring -- and “losing” one hour of sleep -- is more challenging to deal with than the gain of an hour every fall when the clocks are readjusted again. To combat the sluggishness and get your body back in sync with the new time, follow these easy tips:
- Maintain your schedule, keeping mealtimes and bedtimes the same
- In the morning hours, expose yourself to the bright light
- Avoid taking a nap
- If you must get some shut-eye during the day, keep it to no more than 20 minutes and take your rest early in the day
- Skip the extra caffeine dose four to six hours prior to bedtime
- Pass on that glass of wine or a nightcap late at night as it prohibits quality sleep
Be careful on the roadways during the days following the Daylight Savings Time switch. Early morning drivers are not only less alert due to the loss of one hour of sleep -- they are also driving in the darkness, which presents an increased risk of accidents. Those driving home in the evening now have the advantage of daylight, but they may be plagued by sleepiness at the end of the day due to fewer hours of sleep.
Be patient with yourself as you adjust to the new time. Your body is a complicated machine. When one gear is just a bit off, it can impact the whole mechanism. So take these few steps to get your body back in sync. And then enjoy the extra hour of sunlight at the end of your day.