Daylight Saving Time and Your Health

In most areas of North America, Daylight Saving Time 2017 ends on November 5 at 2am. This means that we will roll our clocks back an hour. The goal of Daylight Saving Time is to shift the clocks to create more daylight during the hours that people are normally awake.

However, there are several health concerns surrounding the practice. Some of these issues occur in the spring when clocks are turned ahead one hour, while others happen in the autumn when we “fall back.”

Health Issues and Daylight Saving Time

The period where we jump ahead an hour tends to be the most dangerous for our health. People report feeling unhappier in the days following the spring time change and there is an increase in both car accidents and heart attacks at this time.

However, there is research that shows an increase in depressive episodes and suicides in the first few weeks following the time shift in the fall. This could be because it means that many of us leave work when it’s already dark.

That said, there are also some health benefits associated with daylight saving time. People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may benefit from the increased daylight that is a result of this practice. Also, research has shown that the rate of heart attacks fell after the end of daylight savings time in the fall. However, as mentioned, the risk increases following the start of daylight saving time in the spring, so there may not be a net benefit here.

Studies have also shown that there is a decrease in traffic accidents following the fall shift back. Again, however, there is a traffic accident increase following the “spring forward” earlier in the year.

How to Safely Adapt to Daylight Saving Time

You can help yourself stay safe by following these daylight saving time tips:

  • Make gradual shifts. It’s easier for your body to respond to “falling behind” than “springing forward” but it’s still a good idea to make the change gradually. Shifting your bedtime by 15 minutes a day for several days is easier to deal with than jumping an hour all at once.
  • Keep your schedule. Try to stay on the same schedule when it comes to sleeping, eating, and exercising, even though the time changes.
  • Have a bedtime routine. This will make it easier to fall asleep regardless of what time it is.
  • Avoid the temptation to nap. If you feel tired, try not to take a long daytime nap in the days following the time change. This will make it more difficult to adapt. Instead, step outside and get some sun if you’re running low on energy.

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