Healthy Living

How Daylight Saving Time Impacts Your Health

How Daylight Saving Time Impacts Your Health

Key Takeaways

  • The daylight saving time that happens in spring causes a one-hour time difference leading to a loss of an hour of sleep.
  • Studies have shown that an hour of afternoon daylight lost is enough to trigger a number of mental disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and bipolar disorder.
  • The effects of DST can interfere with your quality of life in many ways.

Benjamin Franklin conceived the daylight saving idea through an essay in 1784, during his American delegate break. His essay was called "An Economical Project". Some of his friends were fascinated and took up his idea and dug deep into it even after his break was over and he had returned to America.

William Willett, an English builder, seriously advocated the idea through a pamphlet. The pamphlet circulated in 1907, and was titled "Waste of Daylight". The main idea was to adjust the clocks 20 minutes ahead during the four Sundays in April, and making the clock lag 20 minutes behind the standard time of four Sundays in September. His pamphlet content was prompted by the waste of daylight, since during his morning run, he saw that most curtains and window blinds were not lifted despite the sunrise.

Criticisms

The major cause of opposition of daylight saving time is that it is believed to be inconvenient. Adjusting the clock means a change in schedule that tends to be a challenge to most. Others hardly notice the effects while some are affected to an extent of suffering from sleeping conditions, which in turn, lead to low productivity at their workplaces and even accidents as a result of fatigue.

There is an argument that DST is not really energy consuming. The basis of this argument is due to the fact that as the sun is experienced more in one hemisphere and the other is experiencing winter, the hemisphere experiencing winter uses a lot of energy to cover up for the minimal sun energy. Moreover, those in warm areas will require cooling the environment, making it less of an energy saving strategy. Those in the areas applying DST tend to experience more sunlight hours and prompts people to visit friends. Hence, more gasoline is used.

Agrarians protest against the idea since it is difficult for their animals to adapt to the change making the first and last week of change more hectic leading to a drop in productivity levels.

A number of parents are also concerned about their young children's safety since waking up an hour earlier tends to be a bit dark, making their children prone to accidents. These parents argue that it is difficult for drivers to see children in darkness, where they have to wait for pickup by school buses.

Daylight saving time has also received opposition based on religious grounds. Jews from Israel claim that they are inconvenienced since they perform their prayers early in the morning. Concerns have raised suggestions about a half an hour forward in the clock, a suggestion that has been benched. 

Inconsistent Use of DST

Some years back, the use of daylight saving time brought about arguments and inconsistencies. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was powerless and the matter was ignored for a while.

With time, the argument became an affair of business sectors. Those in agriculture were against the idea, and those owning entertainment sectors were quite thrilled. Finally, through the help of a transport company, the standardization idea was arrived at. They conducted their research about different local time zones and found it quite challenging and confusing. After public support, the company finally succeeded in vouching for the standardization of time.

How DST Impacts Your Health

Changing from one clock to another does not increase daylight but rather shifts the time when sunrises and sunsets occur. These time shifts can interfere with the circadian rhythm, which in simple terms is the body clock. Honestly, you may find clock resetting brings interesting effects to your body. The truth is that even a time difference of one hour can negatively affect your health. When the time changes, it is bound to affect your sleeping time. You will be heading to bed either earlier or later and wake up earlier or later, which will be tricky situations for you. These situations have been said to be the cause of insomnia, depression, and heart attacks.

The daylight saving time that happens in spring causes a one-hour time difference leading to a loss of an hour of sleep. Your body clock (circadian rhythm) will be affected in the process, which will create an impact on your sleep, mood, hunger, alertness, and fatigue levels, among other factors. Fortunately, it will only take a day for the effects to fade in a good number of people with normal sleeping habits. Most of the negative effects that you will feel will only last for a short while before you get back to your normal state. However, there is a group of people that may be hit the hardest by these effects and will take a while longer to get back to their usual selves. Below are some of the noted ways that DST can affect your life both positively and negatively.

1) Transitional feelings

An interruption of the circadian rhythm has been found to create some serious impacts on a person’s quality of life. However, a good number of studies have found the effects to be short-lived and only last for a few days if not a day after the DST change. A study done by Facebook suggested that a large population of the individuals who undergo the DST change say that they felt more worn out than on a typical Monday. However, a good percentage of Facebook users have also posted that they are having a great feeling and they are feeling happier after the DST effect. This is probably due to the prolonged evenings.

2) Depression trigger

Your mood and depression are some of the things that can be affected by the amount of daylight you get. Such situation is usually common among individuals with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Spending even a little of your time outdoors during the day can go a long way in brightening up your mood. You’ll be amazed by how even a quick walk during the daylight hours can make you feel so much better.

Studies have shown that an hour of afternoon daylight lost is enough to trigger a number of mental disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and bipolar disorder.

A study done in Australia revealed that the days after spring and fall, the DST shift recorded a much higher suicide rate among men. The same study as well showed that interfering with sleeping patterns can turn out to be severe in people with bipolar disorder and can even lead to death in extreme cases. A research was conducted on the suicide cases recorded between 1971 and 2001 to see if the DST shift had any impact on the figures. The results showed that indeed the number of cases of suicide in men reported during the weeks that followed the DST shift was much higher compared to the rest of the year.

A Danish research revealed that there was an 11 percent increase in cases of depression after the daylight saving time shift. The results also showed that the cases reduced gradually in the weeks that followed.

3) The more sleep you get, the healthier you become

Losing an hour of sleep in springtime can negatively affect your health. On the other hand, an increase of 1 hour in your sleeping time has shown to create a positive impact on your health. Studies in Canada showed that cases of heart attacks in the week after the DST transition reduced. The same studies also showed that there was a decrease in cases of road accidents around the same time.

4) Clock changing can affect your heart

One research showed that there was a decrease of up to 21 percent in cases of heart attacks reported in the week that followed the end of DST compared to the other weeks throughout the year.

Another research suggested that heart attacks are directly linked to not getting enough sleep. That explains why the heart attack rate is lower at the end of spring since people tend to sleep longer. On the other hand, heart attack cases at the beginning of spring increased up to 24 percent. The reason is that people tend to get less sleep due to the effects of DST.

5) Stroke cases rise when DST begins and ends

Apparently, heart attacks are not the only cardio-related risks associated with DST. A preliminary study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in 2016 suggested that cases of stroke in Finland increased by 8 percent in the two days before and after the time shift changes (the beginning of spring and the beginning of fall). People with cancer and older adults are the group of individuals who seemed to be most affected during these times. The study also found that interference in sleeping patterns can be a major contributor to mental health complications and high blood pressure.

6) Exhaustion in teenagers

Teens, especially high school students, are generally vulnerable to DST as it interferes with their sleeping patterns. According to a study done in 2015 by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, teens lost a significant amount of sleep during the time shifts. This showed to interfere with their attention, made them drowsier during the day and delayed their reaction time. It has become of great concern not only academically speaking, but even socially, especially teens who drive. Actually, studies showed that there was an increase in automobile accidents during the days after DST.

7) Increased injuries at the workplace

This mostly applies to people with jobs that are physically demanding such as miners and builders. People at such workplaces have higher chances of getting injuries during the days after the daylight saving time. A number of studies have been performed to back up this fact. However, nothing much has been detected on the same at the end of the daylight saving time.

The team that concluded this research in the 2009 Journal of Applied Psychology found that people who worked at mines went to work with 40 minutes less sleep on the week after the daylight saving transition at the beginning of spring. For this reason, the injuries experienced at the workplace that week increased by 5.7 percent compared to the other weeks throughout the year. Researchers blamed the increase on the affected sleep pattern. However, the same was not experienced when the mine workers gained more sleep during the transition at the beginning of fall.

8) Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are known to be rare and extremely painful. Studies suggested that cases of cluster headache attacks were slightly higher during seasonal changes, probably due to the increase in temperature and light. The reports were also found to increase during DST both at the beginning and the end of spring, and during the summer and winter solstices, which are the longest and shortest days of the year.

For a minority group of people, the changes that come with these seasonal transitions may set off cluster headaches and other chronic pain. Studies have suggested that changes in the body clock (circadian rhythm) seem to be the main triggers of cluster headaches that are extremely painful and can last for days or even weeks at a time. The changes in circadian rhythm are experienced during both the beginning and the end of daylight saving time.

9) More time spent on the computer

A research done in Penn State suggested that a deduction of just 40 minutes from a person’s sleep time did encourage too much web surfing, logging into Facebook, and other internet activities, which are rather unnecessary at the time. The research also found that entertainment-related searches on the web skyrocketed on Monday immediately after the beginning of DST compared to the other Mondays during the year.

Effects of DST on Mental Health

It is worth noting the rather interesting fact that DST does not only affect our physical heath, but it may also impact our mental health as well. It is not surprising that the amount of sleep one gets can affect his or her physical health. Let’s explore some of the ways that DST can interfere with your mental health.

1) Anxiety

When your sleep pattern is affected and you don’t get the amount of sleep you are used to, it is no surprise that your anxiety levels will go higher and you are bound to experience more outbursts.

2) Low motivation at work

When you are at work and you are feeling drowsy or just tired, probably because you didn’t get enough sleep last night, you will most likely be disappointed that you are lacking the much needed focus. At this point, chances are you will find yourself looking for something more interesting like browsing the internet. The good news is that you will regain your work-related motivation after DST as days go by.

3) Easily irritated

When DST affects yours sleep pattern, it is completely normal to be easily irritated before your body adjusts to the new changes. Studies have shown that when a person is deprived of enough sleep, the emotional center of the brain, referred to as the amygdala, becomes more sensitive to disturbing images as compared to a person who has had enough sleep. So if you find yourself unusually short-tempered with anybody, maybe the effects of DST are taking a toll on you and you probably need to give the situation more consideration.

Tips on How to Handle the Transition

The effects of DST can interfere with your quality of life in many ways. It will make you tired and can negatively affect your day-to-day well-being and productivity. The following are a few simple tips that can help you manage the transition:

  • On Friday and Saturday just before the transition, use an alarm to get out of bed a bit earlier than usual. This will make it a lot easier for you to wake up on Monday after the time change. If you have children, try and put them to bed earlier so they will wake up earlier, too.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast in the morning. This will tell your body that the day has just begun.
  • Take short walks in the daylight to help your body clock adjust to the new changes.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable night’s sleep just before the transition to reduce the effects of waking up earlier.