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How Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Your Health?

Changing the clocks does not create extra daylight, but it shifts the time the Sun rises and sets. This can cause disruptions to our body clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm. An hour may not seem like a lot, but the time shift can have important effects on the body. With the spring time change, you essentially have to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, which is difficult for many of us to do. Most of us end up losing 40 to 50 minutes of sleep those first few days—and as a nation that’s significantly sleep deprived to begin with, even that little change can impact health. Here are a few examples of how the time changes can affect your body:

1. You Can Fit in Exercise After Work

People are more likely to do something active outdoors since it’s lighter outside for longer. One study found that people burn about 10% more calories during daylight saving time.

2. You’re not being dramatic—it does mess with your sleep cycle

It took 29 percent of Americans a full week to feel normal again after losing an hour of sleep, according to a February 2014 survey from the Better Sleep Council. What’s more, 12 percent forgot to do something important and 5 percent said they acted irrationally—including “got in shower still wearing underwear” and “went to work on a day off.”

3. Depression Trigger

Losing 1 hour of afternoon daylight after setting the clocks back to standard time can trigger mental illness, including bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression.A Danish study found an 11% increase in depression cases after the time seasonal change. The cases dissipated gradually after 10 weeks.An Australian study found that male suicide rates increased the days after the spring and fall DST shift.

4. You’re more likely get injured on the job

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology studied mine workers, and found that they experienced 5 percent more workplace injuries when the clocks sprang forward, an effect that researchers tied to lack of sleep. Of course, this environment is riskier than your typical office job—but beware of the stapler.

5. Transitional Feelings

Even though disrupting the circadian rhythm can have some serious effects, most studies find that they pass during the days following a DST change. Facebook found that, following a DST switch, more people were saying they were “tired” than on a normal Monday. However, many Facebook users also reported that they were feeling “happy” and “wonderful”—perhaps an effect of the longer evenings.

6. Heart Attacks Are More Likely to Happen, Then Level Off

Some research has found a rise in heart attacks the Monday after the time shift. Researchers link this to the change in the sleep-wake cycle and stress about the new workweek ahead. However, this higher risk drops off the Tuesday after the time change, so the overall heart attack incidence stays about the same.

7. You’re Safer on the Roads (in the Long Run)

Although more accidents may occur the first week after the time change due to drowsy drivers, other studies confirm the net effect is positive. The extra evening light helps cut the number of car accidents over the 8 months of daylight saving time.

If you’re the type of person that is especially affected by time change and the sudden loss of daylight, look for ways to get natural light throughout the workday. Whether it means eating in a well-lit break room for lunch, or taking a midday walk outside, the light will impact your mood and help you stay on schedule. If you can’t find a way to work natural light into your day, opt for a “happy lamp” for a similar effect.