Daylight Savings Time Can Cause Heart Attacks: How to Protect Yourself

Friday, 08 Mar 2013 11:05 AM

By Sylvia Booth Hubbard

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Daylight savings time (DST) will begin at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, but "springing forward" can cause more problems than just crankiness from the loss of sleep. Setting clocks forward an hour can be dangerous for your health, and even raise your risk of a heart attack.

A 2012 study reviewed the records of two Michigan hospitals from a six-year period and found that they normally treated an average of 23 heart attacks on the Sunday of the changeover compared to an average of 13 on other Sundays — a whopping increase of more than 55 percent. A Swedish study also found an increase in heart attacks during the first three weekdays after the switch.

Heart attacks aren't the only danger.  Traffic accidents also increase by 11 percent the week following the onset of DST, and workplace injuries are also more common. In addition, a study published in the journal Sleep and Biological Rhythm found that the week following the onset of DST is especially dangerous for men: More men are more likely to commit suicide following the time switch than at any other time during the year.

Alert: The Two Signs Your Heart Is In Trouble

Setting clocks ahead causes sleep deprivation, throws off our internal clock, and suppresses our immune system, say experts. It can take as long as two weeks for our bodies to adjust.

The familiar "Monday morning blues" are especially heightened after the switch to DST, according to Raghu Upender, M.D., medical director of the Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "The feeling of fatigue is related to misalignment of our internal circadian rhythms to the external environment," he said. “We typically shift the sleep schedule on weekends anyway, by staying up later and waking up later than our normal time. When we start playing around with our sleep schedule, we’re not allowing our clock to reset at its usual time. On Monday mornings, your internal clock is saying 'this is still sleep time, what are you doing waking up so early?'"

There are several steps you can take to make the transition to DST easier. They include:

• Go to bed earlier, and get up earlier a couple of days before the change.
• On Saturday night, have dinner an hour earlier and dim the lighting in your home a couple of hours before bedtime.
• Don't take a nap on Saturday.
• Be sure to exercise over the weekend.
• Get sunlight as soon as possible in the morning. This will help reset your body clock.
• Eat a nutritious, medium-sized breakfast.
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol the night before the change and until your body readjusts.

SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.

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