15 ways daylight saving time affects our health

By Hristina Byrnes
March 18, 2016, 12:18:30 PM EDT


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The switch to daylight saving time (DST) was Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 2 a.m., where clocks were moved forward an hour. While having more daylight comes as great news, you will literally lose sleep over it.

An hour less sleep may not seem like a big deal, but science says otherwise. While you may feel happier absorbing more sunshine, DST can unexpectedly and severely upset your body, even for just a few days.

A person’s natural 24-hour clock can adjust slowly, so sudden changes in wakeup times can do some damage. Some individuals will have no problem adapting to a new sleep cycle, but others, especially those with pre-existing conditions such as chronic pain, may find it more difficult.

The brain’s "central clock," called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, regulates our natural 24-hour cycle that controls body heat, hormone production and sleep patterns. SCN needs “hints” such as daylight to keep working properly. So, when these hints are altered, the rhythm changes too, causing a series of issues.

Feel more stressed

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A recent study on the effects of DST on levels of cortisol, aka "the stress hormone," showed that the one-hour of sleep deprivation due to daylight saving time was linked to an average of 5 percent increase in cortisol in people’s blood. "For each hour later that the sun rose there was an almost 5 percent increase in median cortisol," according to the research.

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Increased risk of stroke

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A new study showed evidence that just two days after we change the clocks, the overall risk of stroke jumps by 8 percent. The altered circadian rhythm and the mild shock to the immune system can cause more problems in people who are already at risk of ischemic stroke, the most common type caused by a blockage in blood flow to the brain. Other research has suggested that the risk for heart failure as a result of DST increased by 10 percent.

Irregular sleep pattern

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No light in the morning and more at night when you're used to going to bed will shock your body for a few days. It took a third of Americans about seven days to adjust to the time change, according to a survey from 2014. You'll be sleepy in the mornings and active at night. You’ll have more energy because you've been exposed to natural daylight for longer.

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