How Daylight Savings Affects Your Health

Whether it is the “spring forward” or “fall back” time change, “Daylight Savings,” can wreak havoc on your sleeping patterns and ultimately on your health – and that means your skin too! From your dog waking you up an hour early to eat, to your body just not being ready to rest at your normal sleep time, we’re looking at how Daylight Savings Time affects your health and what to do about it.

First suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, Daylight Savings Time, also known as “Summer Time” in other parts of the world, was first created in order to help people make more use of daylight hours. By changing our clocks forward in the spring, we are moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. Additionally, Daylight Savings Time has been shown to decrease the amount of electric usage across the country, saving people money and decreasing our electricity dependency.

Whether you are a fan of the time change, or you not, recent studies have been finding that even the most subtle time shift can have some interesting effects on human health. Though there are conflicting reports, some studies have found that traffic accidents increase during Daylight Savings Time. This can be attributed to the change in sleep pattern that can affect a driver’s alertness. A Swedish study found that the rate of heart attacks during the first three weekdays following the springtime time change increased by about 5 percent. And finally the change in circadian rhythms caused by the time change can cause cluster headaches – the headaches that cluster on one side of a person’s head.

Alas, you can help your internal clock optimally adjust to daylight savings time and save yourself a headache (or heart attack) by utilizing these tips during this “Spring Forward.”

  • Expose yourself to light at the proper times. Light suppresses the secretion of melatonin. So the more you can expose yourself to light during the day, the more awake you will feel. Conversely, when it is time to rest at night, make sure you are in a dark environment – that means no bright night lights, computer or cell phone screens. And if you wake up to use the restroom, do not turn on the bathroom light.
  • Have a bedtime routine. Your body thrives on external cues and routines. Create a standard bedtime routine that signals to your body it is time to begin relaxing for sleep. Take a warm bath, have a warm cup of chamomile tea and do some deep breathing exercises.
  • Keep a set bedtime. Go to sleep and wake up as closely as possible to the same time every day. This will help enhance your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep and sleeping soundly.
  • Stay away from stimulants. Caffeine, sugar and exercise can all energize you. Make sure to abstain from these things at least two to three hours prior to your bedtime.
  • Trick your mind. If you are still having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, use a sleep mask to further darken your perception. and earplugs to block out any noise. This will trick your mind into a more calming state.

How do you cope with Daylight Savings Time? Tell us in the comments.

Sources: WebMD, Web Exhibits, Live Science