Post 107 – Health Effects of Springing Forward

As we spring forward this weekend, I heard there are more heart attacks and car accidents, so I wondered why?! I didn’t get the complete answer I wanted, but this is what I found out.

When we move our clocks, it changes when our bodies are used to sunlight. Light is the principal time cue for setting our circadian rhythm. (Do you remember from studying the nervous system what part of the brain and what chemical is responsible for this?) Our internal clock becomes out of sync with the day-night cycle. This sounds to be the basis of our time change problems in our bodies.

They relate it to flying and the time zone changes you go through. Losing an hour in the Spring is like flying Eastward. Losing an hour in the Spring is more difficult to adjust than gaining an hour in the fall. This change may cause you to experience the decrements of performance, concentration, and memory common to sleep-deprived individuals, as well as fatigue and daytime sleepiness. This leads to the car accidents and even a 2% decrease in SAT scores.

A spike in heart attacks in the Spring and a decrease in the Fall end of Daylight Savings Time can be explained by the changing sleep patterns. Researchers believe that losing an hour of sleep in the Spring increases stress because there’s less time for the body to recover from the day. The opposite is true in the Fall.

Recovery:

One source (CBS News) states that it takes a week to “get back to normal” after springing forward. WebMD states, “Though a bit simplistic, a rule of thumb is that it takes about one day to adjust for each hour of time change. There is significant individual variation, however.” You want to get out in the sun as much as you can so the light can help reset your pineal gland (answer to the above question in italics! The pineal gland is part of the epithalamus and releases melatonin). Always keep work stuff away from the bedroom (something they call “sleep hygiene”).

Resources:

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