The change to daylight savings can have negative effects on health

Science and Health

On Thursday night, the clocks were moved forward one hour to daylight savings time.

This means that our days are going to be longer and with more light, but it also means that we lost an hour of sleep on Thursday night. For many – especially children and their parents – this change is not at all easy and can lead to days of not getting enough sleep.

Although this is seemingly a small change, its effect on the body can be significant. It’s not just about general complaints of fatigue. It’s about an issue that preoccupies the medical world. A lot of scientists researched the effect of changing clocks on our health and came back with concerning results.

So how much does one hour of sleep really matter, and does daylight savings have some advantages?

Studies show that daylight savings can affect people’s health negatively. A study from 2016 that was conducted in Finland found that the rate of strokes was right percent higher in the two days after the clock change. Among people over the age of 65, there was a 20% rise compared to the week before the clock change and the week after.

A study from the University of Alabama in 2012 showed that during the second and third day after the clocks change, there was a 10% rise in heart attacks.

And that’s not all. Researchers from the medical center at Boston University tested the effect that daylight savings have on the rate of miscarriages among women who conceived through in vitro therapy. They found that the rate of miscarriages were significantly higher in the first three weeks after the clocks changed among women who had suffered miscarriages in the past.

Pregnant woman scrolls on her computer (Illustrative) (credit: Israel Midwives Organization)

The same study did not find the same effect during the change to winter clocks.

The results of these studies support previous work that showed that lack of sleep for any reason (like night shifts) raises the risk of heart or blood vessel diseases. The surprising element here is that even one hour difference can cause the same results.

Possibly, the common factor in all these cases is the lack of sleep and the change that comes with it – a number of days with unsynchronized sleep until the body is used to the change.

What about people who have difficulty sleeping?

People who are already insomniacs may find it difficult to overcome the change of the clocks. One night of irregular sleep is enough to worsen existing insomnia. Common symptoms include fatigue throughout the day, difficulty in cognitive activity, mood changes and lack of energy.

Does daylight savings have advantages?

Daylight savings mean that there is an extra hour of natural daylight in the evening. An extra hour of daylight can be used for outdoor activities, exercise and reduces exposure to artificial lighting.

Extra hours of exposure to sunlight were found to improve peoples mood, lessen symptoms of depression and lessen the risk of suicide. For those suggering from migraines, there is an advantage as researchers have shown that about two weeks after the clocks change in spring, they suffer from less headaches – a change that continues until autumn.

And another advantage – Studies found that daylight savings helps improve road safety by reducing the number of pedestrians getting killed by 13% in the early morning hours and around sunset.