Every year, the start of daylight saving time signals the beginning of spring. The time difference can cause fatigue or other serious health problems.
We’re still “springing forward” with one 23-hour day to change our clocks, which was first proposed over 200 years ago as a cost-effective way to maximize daylight hours while conserving candles.
According to the American Heart Association, the transition can affect your heart and brain, in addition to fatigue. There is an increase in hospital admissions for atrial fibrillation during the first few days of daylight saving time, a type of irregular heartbeat, as well as heart attacks and strokes.
Pediatrician and certified clinical sleep specialist Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell describes daylight saving time as “kind of like jet lag from traveling across time zones,” as reported by ABC News.
She explained that our bodies use this cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm, to regulate time. This cycle lasts about 24 hours and 15 minutes for most people.
“It controls all bodily functions, including sleep, wakefulness, and digestion,” Holliday-Bell explained. Even your immune system is governed by your circadian rhythm, which means that “every hour you lose, you lose some immune function,” she explains.
Lack of sleep can also affect the mind’s executive function, which illustrates why there has been an increase in car accidents since the switch to daylight savings time. It’s also possible that your mood will suffer, says the ABC News report.
Experts agree that there are several ways to prepare your body for daylight savings time throughout the year and in the days leading up to it.
Begin to relax earlier in the evening. Adjusting your sleep-wake cycle can help you feel more rested, even for a few days. During the days before daylight savings time, try gradually increasing your bedtime until you reach the one hour you’ll lose on Sunday.
Make the most of natural light. “Light has one of the most profound effects on circadian rhythms,” Dr. Holliday Bell says. “Expose yourself to natural light as soon as possible after waking up to help reaffirm your circadian rhythm.”
Caffeine should be consumed in moderation. Although the extra coffee may seem necessary to get through the fatigue, too much caffeine is harmful to the heart. It also has a long half-life in the body, making it difficult to fall asleep or sleep soundly in the evening.
Gradual changes in your lifestyle throughout the year, in addition to a concerted effort in the days preceding the transition, can help to mitigate the disruption to your circadian rhythm, enabling you to save daylight without trying to make any other compromises.