Daylight Saving Time Can Actually Be Bad for Your Health—Here’s How
Here’s what daylight saving time can mean for your health and safety.
Daylight saving time ends this Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. At exactly 2 a.m. local time, states around the nation will “fall back” by one hour. Though the sun will set a little earlier, most people agree that falling back isn’t so bad because they gain an extra hour of sleep. But, as it turns out, those extra ZZZs may not be as good for you as you think. Here’s what you need to know about daylight saving time and your health.
Daylight saving time began way back in 1918 as a wartime conservation effort. But, after WWI ended, the practice fell out of style as it was incredibly unpopular, especially with farmers, according to History.com. However, daylight saving returned during World War II, and in 1966, the U.S. government passed the Uniform Time Act, which finally standardized daylight saving time for nearly every state. Now, onto the risks this 100-year-old practice can pose to your health.
A 2016 Danish study, which examined 185,419 diagnoses of depression between 1995 and 2012, found an eight percent rise in depression in the days following the time change in the fall.
"We are relatively certain that it is the transition from daylight saving time to standard time that causes the increase in the number of depression diagnoses and not, for example, the change in the length of the day or bad weather. In fact, we take these phenomena into account in our analyses," Søren D. Østergaard, one of the five researchers behind the study wrote in the group's findings.
"Our results should give rise to increased awareness of depression in the weeks following the transition to standard time. This is especially true for people with a tendency towards depression—as well as their relatives. Furthermore, the healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat depression should also take our results into consideration.”
Gaining an extra hour of rest may seem OK, but it could still be causing all of us to be groggy, which isn’t ideal for getting behind the wheel. According to a 2001 study, there is an increased risk of traffic accidents on the Saturday night before switching to daylight saving as more people may be on the roads later than usual.
“The behavioral adaptation anticipating the longer day on Sunday of the shift from DST in the fall leads to an increased number of accidents suggesting an increase in late night (early Sunday morning) driving when traffic-related fatalities are high possibly related to alcohol consumption and driving while sleepy,” the study concluded. “Public health educators should probably consider issuing warnings both about the effects of sleep loss in the spring shift and possible behaviors such as staying out later, particularly when consuming alcohol in the fall shift.”
According to one Finnish study, the national incidence of stroke rises by about eight percent over the two days following daylight saving time transitions, WebMD reported. As to why that happens, it all comes down to messing with our circadian sleep rhythms.
"Sleep is associated with many physiological changes that are normally thought of as being relatively protective against stroke, like lower blood pressure," Dr. Andrew Lim, is a neurologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center who was not involved in the study, shared.
Apparently getting just a bit more sleep really inspires people to commit crimes. According to a 2017 study by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania who specialize in criminology, psychiatry, and psychology, the assault rate spikes just after the clocks fall back.
“Sleep problems have previously been associated with increased antisocial and criminal behavior, so we were surprised to find that increased sleep was associated with increased offending,” study author Adrian Raine said in press release. “This discrepancy is likely due to the fact that 40 to 60 minutes of lost sleep in one night is just not the same as months, or even years, of poor sleep.”
Maybe Arizona and Hawaii are really onto something by forgoing daylight saving after all.