The end of daylight savings time on Sunday might mean more for our health than just getting an extra hour of sleep, experts claim.
With most Americans falling back in observance of the bi-annual ritual, some might be relishing the additional slumber time. However, rewinding 60 minutes can have several implications for the human body.
For instance, sleep researcher Dr. Phyllis Zee at Chicago’s Northwestern Medicine told the Associated Press that even a slight adjustment of just one hour — in either direction — can significantly impact a person’s sleep patterns.
“Just that one hour can change the amount of sleep you get, the quality of sleep that you get,” Zee said.
Diminished sleep quality can lead to cognitive issues, including difficulties multitasking, staying alert, and even maintaining balance. When this occurs chronically, it can be even more taxing on the body’s functionality, namely by triggering inflammation and boosting stress hormone levels that, in turn, can raise heart rate and blood pressure.
A 2020 paper appearing in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that daylight savings time (DST) is not well-aligned with humans’ circadian biological clock, heightening the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and other harmful health conditions.
Research published in 2014 found that while “falling back” was associated with a 21% reduction in heart attacks, “springing forward” was associated with a 24% increase in such events. A year later, scientists found that the rate of strokes also spiked by 8% following the start of DST, especially among those over the age of 65.
The risk of a motor vehicle accident also allegedly increases with the one-hour time change. For instance, a 2016 study concluded that springing forward was responsible for more than 30 traffic fatalities on average each year.
While such studies might point to the start of DST as much more arduous than its ending, Zee emphasized that this does not mean people should take the upcoming time shift lightly.
Moreover, Molly Hart, spokesperson for AAA’s Auto Club Group, pointed out that motorists should be mindful of the sun setting earlier, according to the AP. Darkening skies combined with drowsiness could spell disaster during one’s evening commute home.
For all of these reasons, observance of DST has been under scrutiny, both at the state and national level. However, due to federal law, states wishing to permanently adopt DST and do away with biannual time adjustments — which includes Texas — cannot do so without congressional approval, as covered by The Dallas Express.
Although the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan bill named the Sunshine Protection Act, it stalled in the House and now sits lifeless in committee.
Regardless, experts suggest being proactive about the time change to minimize the effects.
“If you know there’s going to be a schedule change, then start preparing a week in advance by changing that routine 10 minutes every day. Go to bed earlier and shift your schedule slowly,” said Dr. Judith Joseph, a board-certified psychiatrist and researcher at NYU Langone Medical Center, according to ABC News.