Side Effects of DST Time Changes

21 March 2023

Well, we have all gained an hour from the adjustment to daylight saving time.  However, not everyone handles the change very well.

Daylight saving originated as an attempt to conserve energy.  As part of one of his humorous quips, Benjamin Franklin suggested it originally.  In the late 19th Century a New Zealander wanted more daylight in the evenings so that he could go bug hunting, of all things.  It began for real in Canada in 1908 and became a practical solution during World War I, and then re-established during World War II.  In 1966 it became a regular practice in most of the United States.

While it seems as though we are only playing with the clocks, our bodies generally feel quite a jolt.  The hypothalamus in the brain uses hormones and chemicals to regulate our bodies through the day.  This internal clock regulates liver function, the immune system, and other physiological activities.

The circadian rhythm is the regular recurrence of acts over a specific period of time.  They can be physical, mental, or behavioral.  Actions like sleep occur over a 24 hour period but there are other cycles like plants blooming.

Obviously sleep cycles is one but there are also hormonal cycles in humans and animals.  For plants it controls when they grow, when they flower, and how to reserve energy.

Light has a great effect on our sleep cycle.  Exposure to more light makes us less likely to sleep…just ask those who have experienced the midnight sun in northern climates.  When your body’s rhythm is in sync with a clock but you have adjusted that internal clock with a different time zone, or the annual change to and from daylight saving, you can experience lethargy in the morning and undue perkiness when it is time to hit the sack at night.  You can also have cognitive issues like inattention or fuzzy thinking.

Proponents of a year-round standard clock feel that our bodies will be in greater sync with seasonal changes and the sun clock.  They cite statistics from the week after DST begins with increased number of heart attacks, 6% more fatal car accidents, 11% jump in depressive episodes and other issues.

Right now the process of initiating daylight saving time in the spring and then a return to standard time in the fall is followed by most states and cities in the country.  To combat some of the symptoms mark your calendar to try some of these techniques.

  • Several days in advance, adjust your sleep schedule by at least 15 minutes on either end to start your body recognizing the clock change. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night.
  • Stay away from excess caffeine, alcohol, blue light, and other stimulants especially around bedtime.
  • In the spring, start your exercise regimen in the morning instead of evening or afternoon. This will increase body temperature and help blood flow to encourage wakefulness.
  • Limit napping.

In the fall you can add keeping your evening meal light rather than a carb-heavy dinner that usually inhibits sleep.

There are ongoing debates and studies, but for now, we will just need to plow through until we catch up to the clock.

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