On March 9th, 1918, the United States Congress enacted the very first daylight saving time law. Also known as “Summer Time” in many places around the world, daylight saving time (DST) has been a topic of debate since the very beginning.
While many around the world argue the positives of DST, there is great controversy surrounding it.
One of the biggest reasons for this controversy: The DST health effects on individuals.
Here are 10 fascinating connections with your health and daylight saving time.
1. More Depressive Episodes
It’s yet to be seen if the time change in the spring has an impact on depressive feelings.
However, the “fall-back” change that occurs in autumn has a proven track record for creating higher rates of patients with depressive episodes.
One study in Denmark using records from over 185,000 patients showed an 11% increase in depressive episodes. The episodes lasted around 10 weeks right after the time change.
The records were reviewed from 1995 to 2012. Researchers found this trend for unipolar depressive episodes increasing in the fall, but not in the spring.
2. More Car Accidents
Another fascinating health consequence is the increase of car accidents in the United States and British Columbia right after fall DST.
This could be caused by more people driving in the dark, or because of drivers who have had fewer hours of sleep.
A review of 21 years of deadly car accidents in the U.S. showed a huge increase in the number of accidents happening the Sunday after the fall time change.
According to the British Columbian Ministry of Transportation, a 10% increase in the number of car crashes occurs the day after the change.
3. It’s Harder to Wake and Fall Asleep
One of the more obvious DST health impacts is the influence it has on your body’s internal clock. This clock is also known as your circadian rhythm.
All cells in your body have their own rhythm.
If sudden changes related to time, like DST, extended travel, or jet lag occur, your body’s normal functions can be affected.
This means it can become harder for you to fall asleep at night. You may also struggle to feel refreshed and wake up in the morning.
4. Increase in Strokes
Did you know that daylight saving time is also associated with an increased number of stroke-related hospitalizations?
Sadly, it’s true. Patients hospitalized for stroke increase directly following the time change.
Oddly enough, the time changes tend to cause more strokes in women than men. Reports show an 8% rise in stroke-related hospital visits in the 2 days after the change.
People older than 65 years and cancer patients are also known to have higher risks of stroke directly following the changes.
5. More Wasted Time
Ever heard of “cyberloafing”?
This may be one of the more unusual DST health effects. Interestingly, the Journal of Applied Psychology states that what is known as “cyberloafing” increases soon after daylight saving time.
This means people tend to spend more unproductive time online while at work.
The problem with this is obvious. Following a time change, productivity, efficiency, and honesty decrease at work.
Not to mention the potential for angering your boss rises. Nobody wants that…
6. The Elderly are More Affected
The New England Journal of Medicine published several studies on the negative health impacts of DST.
One study indicates that DST health problems are more likely to happen in people over 65 years old.
This might be from a lack of sleep or a number of other factors. Either way, daylight savings is known to be slightly harder for those nearing retirement age.
7. Poor Diet and Increased Appetite
Sleep is widely known to greatly influence the hormones in your body.
Americans cut out an average of 40 minutes of sleep during DST. This means you’re bound to have some hormone changes.
Unfortunately, changes in hormones can also lead to increased cravings and appetite.
This means weight gain. A lack of sleep also leads to increases in insulin resistance.
In layman’s terms, that means your body stores more fat. Yikes.
8. A Rise in Male Suicide Rates
The Sleep and Biological Rhythms Journal published an Australian study showing a correlation between a rise in men’s suicide rates and spring daylight saving time.
The researchers in the study suggest that this correlation is because of hormone changes in people already vulnerable to depression. Those already struggling with depression who have their biological rhythms being thrown off are at greatest risk.
This resource and others aim to put an end to these and other negative DST health effects by ending daylight saving time.
9. An Increase in Headaches
Headaches are also shown to increase after daylight saving time. This is likely related to less sleep, at least in part.
But that’s not all. Not only do headaches increase following daylight saving, but they are also known to happen closer together. This is called “cluster headaches.”
These painful episodes can leave already tired people even more exhausted as they struggle even more to fall asleep.
Lack of sleep and increased headaches can also lead to memory problems. Luckily, there are ways to help boost your memory despite the lack of sleep.
10. Higher Miscarriage Rates
This sad DST health effect is only known to be related to the time change in the spring.
Boston University Medical Center published a study on miscarriage rates right after DST. It showed many more miscarriages in the three weeks after daylight saving time.
However, these miscarriages were more common for women who had undergone invitro-fertilization or experienced a previous miscarriage.
This study, (which was published in Chronobiology International), showed no difference in the number of miscarriages after the time change in the fall.
DST Health Helps
Ways to beat DST health problems include being sure to hit the hay an extra hour early during the notorious “spring forward” season. Using a good skin treatment can also help with that “exhausted” look.
At the end of the day, knowing your own personal limits can be the biggest help when it comes to sleep deprivation.
For more great health tips and advice, check out the health and fitness portion of our blog.