How Can Losing An Hour Be Bad For Our Health?
This weekend we change our clocks forward for Daylight Saving Time (DST). Losing an hour of sleep can be a minor inconvenience for most of us but it can cause serious health issues in others. But first, some background.
DST actually started near Thunder Bay, ON in 1908. It slowly spread to other Canadian cities but it was only after Germany started using it in 1916 that it gained traction. At that time, the rationale was by waking up earlier you take advantage of the sunlight, decrease the use of artificial lights and consequently save fuel for the war effort of WWI. It caught on with other European countries and was then adopted almost world wide during the second world war.
However, DST has been a source of controversy since the beginning: Does it really save energy? Are companies taking advantage and making people work longer during the summer? And more importantly, are the impacts to our health worth it?
While it's the most important, it's also the most puzzling. What kind of difference can losing one hour make to our health?
A study out of the University of Alabama found that there is an increase in the occurrence of heart attacks on the Monday and Tuesday after Daylight Saving. While they don't know why this happens, there is some thought that the time change affects our circadian rhythm (our internal clock) enough that it throws our whole body off balance which can trigger heart attacks in some people.
There are also statistics that prove there are a higher number of traffic and workplace accidents on the Monday after DST. It's just the decrease of an hour but it makes everyone more tired and less careful.
There are a few things you can do to offset the affect of Daylight Saving.
1. Set an alarm to wake up a little earlier on Friday and Saturday before the time change. I know it's the weekend and you deserve to sleep in but this will make it easier. And you can sleep in next weekend.
1a. Put your children to sleep a little earlier during the week before DST. This will help them cope.
2. Get out into the sunshine. It helps adjust your body clock.
3. Schedule your life so there isn't too much stress at the beginning of the week of DST. Especially if you have a heart condition.
4. Leave extra time to get places on Monday. Rushing could also be a cause of traffic accidents after Daylight Saving.
The best news that DST brings is that summer is just around the corner!