How Daylight Saving Time Impacts Your Body

Learn how you can be prepared to conquer the health risks.

For the past 100 years, we have turned our clocks back an hour to avoid facing those dark mornings. But turning back our clocks also means we are being robbed of daylight.  According to a recent survey, 74 percent of Americans say lack of daylight affects their productivity, and 34 percent of Americans say lack of daylight significantly impacts them.

Dr. John Sharp of Harvard Medical School claims less light in your day can cause things to slow down. He says, “It’s the absence of light that sets us into our sleep-wake patterns. When that gets shifted, it really affects us and can cause people to be irritable, sleepy, and want to quit the day earlier.” The European Union has had discussions in hopes of one day abolishing daylight savings altogether. Northern European countries have found shocking health issues caused by daylight savings. They found this schedule shift has led to an eight percent increased risk of stroke and a 24 percent increased risk of heart attack. The only benefit they found about turning the clock back is an extra hour of sleep coincides with a reduced risk of heart attack the following Monday by 21 percent. So, how can we get ahead of the havoc daylight savings brings upon us?

For starters, try easing into the sleep shift. Sharp denotes that going to bed earlier in 15-minute increments can help ease the transition. Next, avoid alcohol and refined carbs before bed. Dr. Sanam Hafeez of Columbia University points out that 20 percent of American adults rely on alcohol to help them fall asleep. Yet, alcohol can cause more damage than good. Alcohol can affect circadian function; in other words, the substance can interfere with your body’s ability to synchronize itself with the clock. Carbs, on the other hand, can also alter your sleep schedule. Dr. Sharp says, “carbs sap energy because they metabolize into sugar and screw up your baseline metabolism and glucose production in a way that affects your energy or outlook.” Essentially, carbs severely affect your energy levels

When you have the opportunity, go out into the sun. While light suppresses melatonin, the dark induces it. To better adjust to daylight savings time this fall, expose yourself to as much daylight as possible. This can elevate your serotonin levels, give your body vitamin D, and boost your immune system. However, whenever trying to sleep, avoid bright light as much as possible. This way, your body will be able to fall asleep faster. 

Lastly, avoid sleeping with your smartphones. One study revealed that 68 percent of smartphone users sleep with their smartphones in their hands or have it next to them while they sleep.  Hafeez points out that after interacting with others or feeling stressed about something we just read on our phones increases the risk of insomnia.  Following these tips can make a big difference when adjusting to daylight savings. Next year, if you can’t find the time to make it to bed 15 minutes earlier, maybe avoid eating a sweet snack before bed. 

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