Sunday at 2:00 a.m. marks the start of daylight saving time, but there are a few health risks to consider as we “spring forward” and lose that hour of sleep.

Multiple studies conducted over the last several years have shown that the rates of heart attacks increase in the few days following the time change, which is likely due to our bodies having less time to recover from lost sleep. In addition, work place and motor vehicle accidents tend to spike up to a week following the time change.

New research released this week from Finland suggests that the rate of stroke is also increased after the time change. Researchers found a 20 percent increased rate of stroke for patients over age 65.

Why does a time change affect our health?
While there are several proposed mechanisms by which a time change can impact our health, we do not fully understand these effects.  Daylight savings time can impact our circadian rhythms (our sleep/wake cycle) and can affect exactly how much melatonin (sleep hormone) we produce.

Melatonin, also known as the “vampire hormone,” is produced by a special area in our brains called the pineal gland— but only when we are exposed to darkness for an extended period of time. It is essential that we produce adequate levels of melatonin in our brains in order to help regulate sleep/wake cycles. The change in time can throw this system off and can produce a jet lag-like syndrome.

When the sun sets later in the day, we are exposed to more sunlight in the evening, which can delay or reduce melatonin production and make it more difficult to get to sleep.  Plus, since the sun rises later, the harder it is to wake up.

Other chemicals and hormones are also affected by the annual time change. Cortisol (a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland) production can also be affected by the time change and can produce negative health effect.


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