As clocks “spring forward”, how will this affect your health and daily routine?

As clocks “spring forward”, how will this affect your health and daily routine?

By Mallika Priya

Daylight saving time (DST), also referred to as summer time, is the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour from standard time during the summer months, and then back again in the fall. The main purpose of daylight saving is to make better use of daylight. At present, about 70% of countries worldwide follow daylight saving time.

This year, on Sunday, March 8, at 2:00 am (in the United States), many clocks went forward. The change in the clocks on our walls will affect our internal biological clock as well. The time shift has a major impact on our circadian rhythms, which influence sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, hormone release, digestion, eating habits, and other important bodily functions. With the daylight time shift, the body’s rhythmic production of melatonin and cortisol are altered, and thus we experience a temporary state of misalignment in sleep, hunger, and metabolism.

Here are six possible ways daylight saving time can have a negative toll on health and daily routines.

1. Mood and productivity

Daylight saving time changes often lead to disrupted sleep cycles. While springing forward, the body takes time to adjust to the new routine and to going to sleep a little earlier. This usually leads to being restless at night and sleepy the next day (disturbed sleep), along with mood disruptions and increased irritability. On average, Americans lose 40 minutes of sleep when the clocks are set ahead in the spring. From other sleep related studies, it is a well known fact that inadequate sleep leads to disturbed mood, reduces motor skills, and affects memory, performance, and concentration levels.

2. Myocardial infarction and stroke

Many research articles have been published exemplifying the effects of daylight saving on the circadian rhythm of the human body. In a review article published in 2018, the relationship between daylight saving and myocardial infarction was summarized with six studies and a total of 87,994 cases. The article reported that daylight saving disrupts circadian rhythms, leading to sleep disturbance and deprivation. Many of the other reported studies also emphasized that the risk of having a heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke incidence increase in the first two weeks after the time shift, then declines in the following one to two weeks. Researchers attribute about an hour of sleep loss to increased stress and less time to recover overnight.

3. Life satisfaction

There are reports stating that life satisfaction deteriorates in the first week after the switch to daylight saving in the spring transition, due to the combined effect of physical and mental disturbances that this transition creates. Sleep loss and disturbed equilibrium of circadian rhythms affect overall well-being and lead to lowered brain activity, mood swings, and feeling groggy for days. Reduced productivity also leads to the sense of lowered satisfaction towards our work and personal life. The effect of daylight saving time transition is similar to the jet lag experience as one travels to different time zones. Once the human body adjusts to the new routine, it recovers from the losses.

4. Cyberloafing

Cyberloafing is another effect of the time shift. The daylight saving time change leads to loss of sleep, thereby causing employees to spend more time than normal surfing the web for content unrelated to their work. This leads to productivity losses for companies in the initial weeks after the time change. Findings suggest that managers and organizations should go a bit easy on employees and encourage them to get sufficient sleep, rather than demanding longer work hours to compensate for reduced productivity.

5. Reduced mental activity

Some reports have also indicated more workplace injuries, automotive accidents, and even hindrance of moral decision-making in the initial weeks after the daylight saving switch. The behavioral responses to forced circadian changes affect both mental and physical activity. For example, the start of daylight saving is associated with significantly higher rates of road accidents, which fall back down to normal rates as the human body aligns itself with the changed time.

6. Diet and appetite

Though not as serious as car crashes or heart trouble, daylight saving time transitions can temporarily wreak havoc on our diet as well. Sleep deprivation affects hormone levels, which leads to changes in appetite, an increase in cravings, and potential overeating. Sleep disturbances also increase insulin resistance and encourage the body to store more calories in fat.

It’s just a matter of time.

Coping with the shift in time can be challenging initially. But it is just a matter of a week or two for the body to adapt and adjust to the new schedule. To minimize the negative effects, it is advised to maintain good sleep hygiene and the overall daily routine. This includes reducing or eliminating caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol consumption. Exercising can boost metabolism and support the body in making a smooth change, while creating calming rituals before bed can definitely help in relaxation and readjustment. The Cleveland Clinic also recommends making gradual shifts and changes in your sleep schedule prior to the daylight saving time change. A combination of these practices will help in adjusting to the time change and avoiding some of its negative health consequences.

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