Quick overview of what we’ll cover in this blog post:
- The consequences of Daylight Savings
- How it affects our short-term health
- How it affects our longevity
- What we can do to avoid the risks
It’s officially the scariest time of year: the leaves are falling, the air is turning brisk, and the light is leaving the afternoon skies. Soon, adults and children alike will be bustling in preparation of the coming tradition.
Of course, we’re talking about Daylight Saving Time.
What’s Daylight Saving?
It’s the time of year we all dread, the time when we change our clocks to match the changing sunset, and though not quite as festive as Halloween, Daylight Saving Time (DST) still comes with its own set of traditions – losing sleep, or otherwise altering our healthy sleeping patterns.
The modern justification for DST is that rising in line with daylight hours gives us more energy and healthier sleep. Funny enough, though, the idea of DST was introduced to US audiences as a joke, when Benjamin Franklin authored a satirical letter to a Parisian journal proposing that waking up earlier would help people save money on candles. Smart!
Whether it’s fall back or spring forward, many would agree that DST hinders their everyday energy as their bodies readjust to the change.
How Changing Our Clocks Is Hurting Us
But just how long does that readjustment phase take? That’s difficult to say for our energy, but we can point to the slew of other consequences that happen to rise up when we change the clocks.
When we roll our clocks forward, hospitals report close to a 25% increase in heart attacks alone. Conversely, on the day after we roll our clocks back, heart attacks drop by up to 21%. Though these figures also stabilize within a few days of the time change, they still don’t illustrate the compounding harm of regularly interrupting our sleep patterns.
The Long-Term Consequences
Losing an hour of sleep is always a pain, and something we can notice immediately. But changing our sleep patterns cyclically can also have long-term effects on how we age. After all, sleep is the ultimate health insurance. This may help explain the spike in heart attacks after DST, but the full truth is revealed when we dive into what happens as we sleep.
During sleep, our brain washes accumulated trash (known as amyloid beta) from its nooks and crannies, and memories are consolidated and stored. Meanwhile, our endocrine system resets, our immune system recalibrates, and our gut refortifies its barriers.
All these processes are coordinated by our circadian rhythm, which can best be described as a symphony between our bodies and the day cycle, with the sun as the conductor and our physiology as the orchestra.
So think of DST as a heckler in the orchestra chambers throwing the conductor off rhythm.
Even when one member of the symphony is playing off rhythm, the whole orchestra is thrown off. Similarly, when our sleep is interrupted by even an hour, these processes can be thrown into complete disharmony. One off-note can be minimalized; multiple can ruin a symphony’s future.
Why Do We Still Follow DST?
Throwing off your sleep can certainly be irritating in the short term, but it also throws our bodies off rhythm, keeping it from performing necessary maintenance that prevent heart disease, stroke, and even dementia. Over time, just one hour of lost sleep may be the breaking point.
In fact, it’s fair to ask why DST is even a thing nowadays. Fortunately, DST may soon be officially abandoned.
In 2022, the United States Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would establish a permanent Daylight Savings Time. In other words, when passed, the next time we roll our clocks forward would be the last. But the bill has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives, where it’s died several times since passing the Senate. It can always be revived, though we have no indication of when or if that may happen.
What We Can Do About It
While we wait for the US government to save us from this tradition, there are at least a few ways to combat DST in the meantime.
Balancing our light exposure is critical to restoring our circadian rhythm. When the days start to get shorter, and the nights longer, it’s imperative that you get as much Vitamin D as you can, especially in the mornings. Try to take a 15-30 minute stroll in the sun within the first hour of waking up, and dim the lights as much as possible during the evening. If you still have trouble falling asleep, try lowering the temperature in your home at night: lower temperatures can signal to our brains that it’s time for sleep.
Additionally, both B12 and NAD+ supplementation can restore healthy sleep. Both molecules affect our natural sleep patterns, and both decrease in levels with age. NAD+ is particularly important, acting as the master regulator of our circadian rhythm, so maintaining healthy NAD+ levels is an absolute must when our body is facing seasonal changes.
But perhaps most important of all is to stick to your sleep routine! When you finally do settle back into a steady sleep pattern, it’s best to maintain this pattern even through time changes. So if you were going to bed at 11:30pm, start going to bed at 10:30pm following the time change (or vice versa).
As DST nears, just remember to set your time to your body clock, rather than our collective social clock.
Note: The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.