Daylight saving time (DST) begins on March 10th this year and I have to be honest: I really dislike it. More specifically, I dislike the transition to DST. I mourn that lost hour of sleep, and definitely feel out of sorts for at least a week after it begins. Why is this? What makes it so difficult for people to change their sleep routines? The main reason has to do with your circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythm is a person’s natural sleep and wake cycle.1 The word circadian comes from the Latin words circa meaning “approximately” and dies meaning “day”.2 Therefore, circadian means a period of time that is approximately one day. The human body is attuned to a 24-hour day based on the light and dark cycles that occur as the earth revolves around the sun,1 but when DST begins we are asking our bodies to adjust and conform to a newly agreed-upon time. As a result, our normal circadian rhythm gets disrupted, which in turn leads to sleep deprivation. And sleep deprivation can be asking for trouble.
DST and Your Health
The impact of DST on human health is largely unknown;3 however, there is fresh evidence that suggests that the transition to DST is simply not good for you.3,4
In a 2018 retrospective study of forensic autopsies in Germany from 2006 to 2015, there was an increase in the sheer number of autopsies performed during the 2-week period after DST began.3 The study theorized that this could be due to higher rates of traffic accidents and suicides resulting from sleep disruption and deprivation, as well as an uptick in fatal heart attacks. A 2018 review of evidence at an Italian university similarly found an association between DST and an increased frequency of heart attacks by as much as 29%.4 The good news? Although springing forward to DST appears to be detrimental to health, the fall transition is conducive to sweet dreams without an increased risk of mortality.
So what can a sleep-deprived person do to get ready for DST? A favorite suggestion is to prepare a week ahead of time by going to bed a little earlier each night. It may also help to avoid caffeine, get regular exercise, and avoid heavy meals before bedtime. These recommendations and others can be found in the Insomnia topic at MDGuidelines.com.5 And of course, if sleep disruption and insomnia persist, a medical professional should be consulted.
In all, DST can be a controversial topic. In fact, the European Parliament is considering abolishing it altogether and has asked the scientific community to weigh in.6,7 And although the United States still observes DST in the majority of the country,8 states like California are actively taking steps to stay on DST the entire year.9
The transition to DST is seemingly only a minor inconvenience at face value, but we should all be aware of its potential for nightmarish health consequences. If DST remains in effect in your part of the world, I wish you a safe and sound sleep!
- What is Circadian Rhythm? Retrieved 2/27/2019 from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-circadian-rhythm
- Retrieved 2/27/2019 from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/circadian
- Lindenberger, L., et al. “The controversial debate about daylight saving time (DST)—results of a retrospective forensic autopsy study in Frankfurt/Main (Germany) over 10 years (2006-2015).” Int J Legal Med. 2018 Nov 1.
- Manfredini, R., et al. “Daylight saving time and myocardial infarction: should we be worried? A review of the evidence.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2018 Feb; 22(3):750-755.
- Retrieved 2/27/2019 from https://new.mdguidelines.com/mda/insomnia
- Juncker: EU Will Scrap Clock Changes. Retrieved 2/27/2019 from https://www.timeanddate.com/news/time/europe-may-scrap-dst.html
- Manfredini, R., et al. “Daylight saving time, circadian rhythms, and cardiovascular health.” Intern Emerg Med. 2018 Aug; 13(5):641-646.
- Daylight Saving Time Around the World 2019. Retrieved 2/27/2019 from https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/2019.html
- California voters reject the tyranny of daylight saving clock changes. Retrieved 3/4/2019 from https://www.vox.com/midterm-elections/2018/11/7/18071628/california-proposition-7-results-ballot-daylight-saving-time-all-year-round