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Turning Back the Clock: How Time Change Can Harm Your Health

Turning Back the Clock: How Time Change Can Harm Your Health

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By    |   Friday, 04 November 2016 02:35 PM

Sunday morning, by turning back the clocks one hour, we return to standard time and exchange 60 minutes of morning daylight for an early hour of evening darkness.

But, while the time change means most people will enjoy an extra hour of sleep, the shift results in a change in sleep patterns that can result in people feeling “groggy and unsettled,” or worse, says Dr. Raghu Upender, medical director of the Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center.

This semiannual transition of changing the clock affects our body’s circadian rhythm, or internal time clock, which can also play havoc with our sleep patterns, and that can lead to serious health problems.

“Light perception through the eye’s retina regulates the hormone melatonin, which controls the sleep-wake cycle, among other functions. Light inhibits the production of melatonin, while darkness encourages it,” he says.

“This explains why we often feel more tired or groggy in the fall and winter months, when days are shorter and there are fewer hours of sunlight.”

Most people adjust to this time change within a few weeks, but a number of health problems are also linked to this semiannual ritual:

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons, and that many experts believe is linked to the diminishing of daylight that coincides with the time change. Symptoms of SAD may include fatigue and moodiness. Hormone or light therapy may help.
  • Depression: The number of people who are diagnosed with depression rises 8 percent higher during the month after such a change, according to a Danish study reported ast October, which was based on about 185,500 people. Although this type of depression was severe, the researchers day they expect such problems occur “across the depression spectrum.”
  • Cardiovascular problems: With darkness comes increased exposure to high intensity LED streetlights, which emit unseen blue light that can disturb sleep rhythms and possibly increase the risk of serious health problems, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, the American Medical Association warned last year.
  • Stroke: Turning the clock ahead or back one hour during daylight saving time transitions may be tied to an increased risk of ischemic stroke, which is the most common form. But this change is temporary, according to Finish researchers. The risk was highest for people with cancer; followed by those people age 65 and older, say the researchers, who presented the report in April at the American Academy of Neurology's 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.
  • Fatal accidents: Accidents tend to increase during the shift to daylight savings time, but an increase has also been observed on the Sunday (or early Sunday morning) immediately following the time shift, which could be due to increased alcohol consumption or sleepiness, say researchers of this study in Sleep Medicine.

To cope with the time change, Dr. Beth Malow, chief of Vanderbilt’s Division of Sleep Disorders, recommends the following strategies:

  • Schedule a relaxing pre-sleep ritual, such as taking a bath, reading or listening to calm music.
  • Make sure the bedroom is quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Eliminate bright lights and stimulation of TVs, computers and other electronics before bed.
  • Avoid large meals, alcohol and caffeine before bed.
  • Exercise earlier in the day, not right before bed.
  • Keep the same bedtime and wake time each day, even on weekends.

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For most people, turning back the clocks one hour this weekend will simply mean an extra 60 minutes of sleep. But for some, the time change can pose potential health problems. Here are some strategies to cope.
time, change, daylight, savings, time, standard, sleep
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2016-35-04
Friday, 04 November 2016 02:35 PM
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