Last Sunday March 11th, we sprung forward one hour in the yearly dance of changing clocks. Randy Mann noted in his Monday March 5th weather column (CDAPress) that some believe adjusting to daylight saving time can have a negative impact on your health. It’s been roughly a week since the time change, so how did you fair? This question is one you may or may not have considered, so I thought it would be interesting to review the time changes effects on your health.
Rolling forward an hour and it's affect on your health is an old question and one that I have touched on in the past. If losing one hour of your sleep made for a rough week and you felt less than stellar, you're in good company. For me, daylight saving time always sets me back feeling sluggish and certainly adds difficulty to my 4:30 AM workouts each morning. These changes impact me in a couple of ways. First, it takes me almost a week to get my circadian rhythm back to something comfortable. Secondly, my exercise regimen suffers from lack of energy and motivation for a short time. What I find very interesting is turning back an hour in November to standard time has little to no effect on me and in fact I bearly notice the change.
Here's a little history of daylight saving time and how it originated. Depending on who you believe, it was either introduced by our most famous U.S. inventor and great statesman, Ben Franklin or an Englishman named William Willett. It seems that in fact, Willett was the first to bring the idea of moving the clocks forward into popularity.
Now, I do not want the truth to get in the way of a good story. It is said that Willett was an avid golfer and didn't like his round of golf getting cut short due to darkness, so he convinced the British parliament and the world to adopt the practice of daylight saving time. Since the game of golf is an excellent exercise, I guess it qualifies as a good reason. The odd fact here is even though England came up with the idea of daylight saving time, it was Germany who first started the practice during the first World War.
Have studies linked daylight saving time to a negative impact on your health? There is a growing amount of research that does connect the time change to everything from depression, insomnia, cardiac stress and even stroke. Statistically, studies have shown an increase in both heart attacks and interestingly miscarriages in March around the time change. All this research needs a broader in-depth approach, but early findings are showing it is unhealthy to force an internal clock reset each year.
The primary cause of all the potential reasons for unhealthy issues around daylight savings time comes down to your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is complex and syncs your brain and body in a process that revolves around a 24-hour cycle. The 24-hour circadian rhythm integrates into all living things, plants, animals, and humans. The physiological processes of our circadian rhythms help us set our sleeping and eating patterns. Circadian rhythms regulate body temperature, digestive function along with hormone production and cell regeneration on a daily cycle to keep living beings healthy.
When your circadian rhythms get disrupted, it can have a dramatic effect on some people in the form of mood swings, fatigue, trigger illnesses and for athletes, it can impact energy levels and overall performance for a short time.
In your brain, you have an area called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is your brain's timekeeper and can get out of sync during a 24-hour period. Within each 24-hour period, your mind and body need to undergo small adjustments to keep our body on schedule with our day and night environment. This circadian regulation can be affected by age, chronic illnesses, nutrition, exercise and, of course, daylight saving time.
As the name suggests, circadian rhythms are a cycle of high points and low points in living things. When people have this cycle changed, it can reduce your daily performance by as much as 10 percent which for some can be debilitating for work, play and exercise.
So does daylight saving time impact your health? Yes, and it is fair to say it can affect some more than others. The good news is most of us can overcome these setbacks within two weeks of the change and recover our daily rhythm.
I for one would prefer a permanent move to stick with standard time. In the United States, Arizona and Hawaii do not observe daylight saving time and parts of China, Argentina, Iceland, and Russia have adopted time standard. It seems odd that in this day and age, we need two-time options. I am sure we could come up with some excellent reasons to establish a permanent standard time in the United States, not the least of which would be a healthier rhythm of life.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.