Health

Take Care, Daylight Saving Time is Today

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Experts who study circadian rhythms and sleep disorders understand that the symptoms I experience at the start of Daylight Saving Time each year are not unusual. I just complain about the symptoms more than most people do. I do have anxiety about the loss of my hour of morning sleep for weeks before the dreaded change in the official time occurs, and then I suffer from sleep deprivation symptoms for at least a week after the change. I consume more coffee to overcome daytime drowsiness then take more drugs to prevent the destruction of my stomach lining from the coffee. And I am certainly cranky. I need morning light to prevent my already unpleasant seasonal affective disorder.

Studies and personal anecdotes supporting the destructive impact of this antiquated plan to shift the number of daylight hours we get into the evening—as an energy conservation trick during World War I that became a national standard in the 1960s—are legion. Daylight Saving Time has been documented to alter sleep patterns for weeks, affecting mood, job performance, health and the frequency and severity of auto accidents. Researchers in sleep medicine at Johns Hopkins and Stanford Universities looked at what happened when millions of drivers had their sleep disrupted. They analyzed 21 years of fatal car crash data from the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and found a small but significant increase in road deaths on the Monday in Spring after the clock shifts. In this study, it was reported that the number of fatal accidents increased to an average of 83.5 on the “Spring Forward” Monday, compared with an average of 78.2 on a typical Monday. (Reference: “Fatal Accidents following changes in daylight savings time: the American experience.” )

Janszky, Ahnve, Ljung, Mukamal, Gautam, Wallentin, and Stenestrand studied the impact of heart attacks in Sweden related to the spring ahead effect for many years. In the Journal of Sleep Medicine in 2012 they reported, “Our data suggest that even modest sleep deprivation and disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle might increase the risk of acute myocardial infarcts (heart attacks) across the population.” (Reference Sleep Med. 2012 Mar;13(3):237-42. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2011.07.019. Epub 2012 Jan 30, “Daylight Saving Time Shifts and Incidence of Acute Myocardial Infarction–Swedish Register of Information and Knowledge About Swedish Heart Intensive Care Admissions).

So this is what we know:
1. Sleep deprivation increases the risk factors for heart attacks, including high blood pressure, the production of toxic inflammatory proteins and obesity. (New England Journal of Medicine)

2. In addition, with this loss of a morning hour, our bodies lose an hour of preparation for the inevitable rise in cortisol and other hormones and chemicals that prepare us to begin our day. Many of these can also cause stress on an already damaged cardiovascular system. Sleep is necessary for the proper control of the internal clock of every cell in the body. With the change in the sleep-wake cycle, there is an increase in the production of chemicals that affect inflammation and the immune system. (“Changes in ischemic stroke occurrence following daylight saving time transitions,” Sleep Medicine, Volumes 27-28, November-December 2016, pages 20-24 Jussi O.T. Sipila et al).

3. Morning light is the most important light for synchronizing our circadian rhythms. Of course, Daylight Saving Time takes away an hour of morning light. This increases the risk of seasonal affective disorder and, in some people, depression. A study based on suicide data in Australia from 1971 through 2001 confirmed that male suicide rates rose in the weeks following the change to Daylight Saving Time, compared with the weeks following the return to standard time and the rest of the year.

4. Workplace productivity goes down because of the clock changes. (Journal of Applied Psychology)

5. Traffic accidents spike on the Monday after “Spring Forward.” (American Economic Association, New England Journal of Medicine)

6. Workplace injuries go up. (Journal of Applied Psychology)

We are facing daily crises that affect everyone on the planet. I have an inbox that overflows daily with emails requesting that I do something about this important crisis or that important political issue at once. However, citizens might consider contacting members of their state legislatures and members of congress to urge them to write and present a simple bill to abolish the need to change the clocks every six months. It won’t increase the federal deficit. It will decrease health care costs and save lives. The great state of Connecticut, where I have a home, invited Scott Yates to present testimony regarding HB05043: An Act Concerning The Adoption Of Atlantic Standard Time on February 15, 2019.  Scott has a site where he has collected all the scientific information about the dangers of changing the time every six months and can be followed at #LockTheClock. He reports that citizens all over the country are passionate about changing our 20th century way of managing time and that lawmakers are finally calling him for help in drafting legislation.

Be careful this week.  Scale back commitments. Be more mindful of accident prevention and practice really good sleep hygiene habits.

Stay healthy,

Dr. Pat

 

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  • hillsmom March 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    During the Carter administration, I think we tried keeping DST once all year long. (Also the DST started in April and ended in Oct. I think that’s right.) I thought it was a good idea. Horrors! It was awful, especially because it was so dark in the winter mornings, and of course worse in CT than here in SE PA. In a way, I’m glad it was tried if only to see how awful it was.

    Reply
  • Scott Yates March 11, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Thanks for writing about this!!! It’s a real health issue. And thanks for linking to my site. If you have other ideas for womens voices that I should hear and publish on my site, please let me know!

    Reply
    • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. March 11, 2019 at 10:18 am

      Dear Scott,
      Thanks for all the important work that you do to change this antiquated notion that we have to change our clocks twice a year which alters our important circadian clock. I have been whining about this issue twice a year since our site began in 2006! I do hope that our readers visit your site and join you in this important work.
      Dr. Pat

      Reply