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Serious Health Risks of Daylight Saving Time
March 13, 2016
Tips, news, and resources on sounder sleep, natural health, and financial success.
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In Today's Chat1. Today's quote
2. Serious Health Risks of Daylight Saving Time (and why daylight saving time is dumb)
3. Smoke alarms and luxury mattresses
4. Coming up in a few days in Sleep Chat
Today's Quote“Nothing is so dear and precious as time.” Francois Rabelais, in Works, renowned French Renaissance writer, born between 1483 and 1494 and died 1553
Serious Health Risks of Daylight Saving TimeThe human body is controlled by numerous internal clocks that regulate your genes. These molecular clocks control everything from your metabolism, to how you process carbohydrates, to how fat is stored in your body, and even to your behavior.
The study of these biological clocks is called chronobiology and I’ve spent a lot of time recently studying this field. It’s a fascinating subject because every cell in your body contains a molecular clock.
According to sleep deprivation expert David Dinges, screwing around with these biological clocks is a bad idea. He says: “Chronobiology is a hardwired, fairly inflexible biology, and yet humans provoke it constantly.”
That’s why jet lag and night shift work puts such a strain on the human body. In night shift work, studies show a higher correlation with obesity and metabolic disorders. And the World Health Organization states there is evidence for higher rates of breast and prostate cancer too.
It’s also why daylight saving time (DST) may be hazardous to our healthThere are numerous studies on DST. That’s why it surprises me that some writers and sleep researchers say DST is no big deal. Suck it up and in week you’ll be adjusted.
That’s like saying it’s okay to get the flu because you know you’ll be better in a week.
Because consider this: In spring daylight saving time, studies show a surge in increased risk for heart attack and stroke in people with atherosclerosis, diabetes, and obesity. This is typically in the first several days after the time change.
Changing the body’s timing changes the body’s chemistry which can increase blood pressure and blood clots in certain individuals.
Other studies have shown that students suffer greater sleepiness in the spring time change when we all lose an hour of sleep.
And people with diabetes who use insulin are at risk if they don’t reset the time delivery on their insulin pumps.
Why do we move the clocks forward or backward?Supposedly it’s so we can save energy—resources such as coal, gas, and electricity. More about that below.
First though, it’s a known fact that one of the most important things for getting a good night’s sleep is to maintain healthy sleep patterns. That includes regular and consistent sleep routines.
It is far more important to stop messing with the human organism than it is to play around with an extra hour of natural light in the spring and fall. After all, this is why we have lights in modern society in the first place. We have flashlights…headlights on our cars…lamps with lightbulbs…street lights…and lights on our computers and tablets that disrupt our sleep patterns.
It’s hard enough for our children to get a decent night’s sleep because of early start times in school. Then we stack daylight saving time on the fire and fuel more sleep deprivation problems for everyone in our society. What we are doing is setting the clock on the wall to take advantage of natural light and yet we are completely and totally messing up our internal molecular clocks.
We already have far too many people killing each other on the roads because of drowsy driving. So then we go and legislate that clocks must be moved an hour forward in the spring and we create even drowsier driving. Dumb.
The history of daylight saving time (DST)One of the crucial points I want to point out here today is that the idea of daylight saving time was invented before humans ever knew about chronobiology.
The idea of DST has been around for centuries, going as far back as Ancient Egypt.
But it was during World War I that Germany made the concept of saving daylight a reality. Not as much lighting would be needed in homes and they could use the savings for their war effort. Several other countries jumped on the daylight saving train and down the tracks the notion of saving energy chugged away.
Only problem is, research has shown that energy is not really saved at all. Energy use may actually increase! Just another example of something we were lead to believe that simply had to be true (remember all those invisible weapons of mass destruction Iraq had?). Chronobiology, on the other hand, is so new it wasn’t considered a science until the 1960s. And this field of study is still in its infancy.
The hidden mystery of human biological clocks and rhythms and how they maintain our health was never a factor to be considered when putting daylight saving time into play.
What can we do to get through DST?It’s a little late to try this trick this year but here’s an idea I read somewhere years ago (can’t remember where).
If you have the risk factors I mentioned earlier…or if you’ve found over the years that daylight saving time has an adverse effect on you, prepare for it a month in advance. Each week adjust your bedtime and wake time by 15 minutes. Then when DST comes around, you’re on the right time.
Here’s how it works in the spring. Suppose you normally go to bed at 10 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. Starting a month before, each week go to bed and wake up 15 minutes earlier than normal.
That way, after four weeks, you’ll be going to bed at 9 p.m. but when the clock moves forward you’re on the right time—10 p.m.
As for what to do right now that DST is already here? When you’re driving this week, slow down, stay off the cell phone, and pay better attention.
If you use caffeine or alcohol, cut back on both of these so you’re not using them late in the day. And anything you can do this week to relax, do it!
The study of chronobiology in the years ahead will have a dramatic and positive effect on human health. I think it’s exciting.
However, from what researchers have learned about it already, one thing is already clear: it’s time to put daylight saving time to bed once and for all.
1. Shifts to and from DST and Incidence of Myocardial Infraction: DST may increase sleep problems that lead to an increase in heart attacks.
2. Living by the Clock: The Science of Chronobiology, by Mark Wolverton
3. Are daylight saving time transitions associated with changes in myocardial infarction incidence? Results from the German MONICA/KORA Myocardial Infarction Registry. Kirchberger et al. BMC Public Health (2015) 15:778
4. Adverse Effects of Daylight Saving Time on Adolescents' Sleep and Vigilance. J Clin Sleep Med. 2015 Aug 15;11(8):879-84. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.4938
Smoke alarms and luxury mattressesWhen we turn the clocks ahead in the spring and back in the fall, we’re always reminded to change the batteries in our smoke alarms too. Good suggestion.
Here’s another good suggestion: why not upgrade your mattress if yours is getting uncomfortable?
The good news is, you can get a luxury mattress without paying luxury prices. Click here to see the best reviewed mattress on Google for 2015.
What’s next in a few days?I’ve written a very important article about prescription drugs. You should read it if you take these medications.
Until then, life is a journey. Keep exploring.
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