5 ways the time change can affect your health


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If you’re like most Americans, this week will probably be more of a struggle than most; daylight savings time is officially in full effect.

This means that, unlike the fall weekend that allows for an extra hour of sleep, you’ve lost an hour of sleep this weekend. Designed to preserve an extra hour of daylight in the summer, daylight saving time might not seem like a big deal on the surface, however, its effects on our bodies and our habits may be more profound than most think.

The time change is capable of throwing off your health. Here's how.


1. Your ability to think declines.

Think about how your body feels after a cross-country flight, when a few hours of sleep are missed. The jet-lag effect that negatively impacts cognitive functioning also comes into play during the time change.

In fact, researchers at Texas A&M found that there’s a 7% increase in traffic accidents immediately following the start of daylight saving. In the morning, that effect is even more profound at 14%. It all links back to cognitive function: If you’re unable to think because of a change in your sleeping habits, you’re more likely to make poor decisions. Put simply, when sleep decreases, so does your ability to function cognitively.


2. Your heart could be at risk.

Solid sleep routines can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. However, even with an excellent sleep routine 364 days a year, moving the clocks back an hour can negatively impact your heart. In 2012, the University of Alabama and Birmingham found that in the 48 hours after daylight saving time goes into effect, there is a 10% increase in the risk of heart attacks across the board.

Likewise, pushing clocks back an hour in the fall decreases the risk of heart attacks by 10%. A loss of just one hour of sleep plays a significant role in cardiovascular health.


3. Your stress levels could increase.

Cortisol is a hormone in the body that’s released in reaction to stress. In 2014, the Cronobiology International Journal published the results of a 13-year study that looked at the effects of daylight savings on cortisol levels. On average, the study found that each one-hour delay in sleep associated with daylight saving time was associated with a 5% average increase in cortisol in participants’ bloodstreams.


4. Your sleep schedule could suffer.

Thanks to the changes in outside light and how that affects our bodies, daylight saving can throw off our sleeping and waking cycles throughout the night until a new rhythm is found. One of the best ways to get a better night’s sleep is to establish a routine.


5. You could experience positive changes.

Fortunately, there are a few positive changes associated with daylight saving time, including:

  • Enhanced mood: While losing an hour of sleep produces extra cortisol, longer daylight hours increase the body’s release of serotonin — the hormone that controls happiness. Because of this, you’re likely to experience an increase in happiness after your body adjusts to the lost hour of sleep.
  • Increased energy: More sunlight means less melatonin, which your body releases to increase the need for sleep. When less melatonin is in the body, you’ll feel less tired and experience an increase in energy.


The time change can throw off your health in both negative and positive ways. If this week feels “off,” remember that there are positive benefits right around the corner.


Scott Huntington is a health expert and writer. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington or check out his site, Blogspike, for more.