In less than a week we will be “springing” our clocks ahead by one hour. It’s that time of year when we “lose” an hour of sleep – which most of us dread. In return, we “gain” an hour of sunlight in the evening – which most of us like. But what does this do to our health?
Most of us know that the Monday following the start of springtime Daylight Saving Time we will be tired. But research published in Sleep Medicine Review suggests that it takes us at least a few days to “catch up” on that lost hour of sleep.
Not surprisingly, the time change is hardest on those who are chronically sleep deprived. While most people will adjust to the time change in a couple of days, night owls and those who constantly get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night can take a full week to recover from that lost hour of sleep.
And this loss of sleep may not be good for our health. Swedish researchers found that the rate of heart attacks during the first three weekdays following springtime daylight saving increased by about 5 percent from the average rate during other times of the year. Why? Lack of sleep can release stress hormones that increase inflammation, which may cause more complications in people already at risk of having a heart attack.
Another study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that cyberloafing (surfing the net, writing e-mails or other internet-related activities at work that are not related to work) dramatically increased during the Monday after springtime daylight saving, compared with the Mondays directly before and one week after the time-change. The researchers attributed the increase in cyberloafing to low workday motivation and focus caused by lack of sleep from daylight savings.
While the debate continues on whether we need daylight savings, a positive health effect is that more evening sunlight means more outdoor play for children (it has no effect on adults’ outdoor physical activity time). With most children not meeting the exercise guidelines, even a few extra minutes of daily outdoor activity would add up to health benefits over the long term.
One thing is for sure: our internal clocks are not as easy to reset as the ones on our computers and phones, and in general this is not good for our short-term health.
ASK FIT LIFE
Is optimism good for your heart?
Optimistic people tend to anticipate the best possible outcome in any situation. And this “glass is half-full” mentality may be good for your heart. A recent large-scale study published in the journal Health Behavior and Policy Review followed more than 5,000 adults for an 11-year-period. Researchers found that the optimistic adults were twice as likely to have healthy hearts compared to their pessimistic counterparts. This association remained significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health. And having a sunny outlook might also help you live longer, too.
Fit Life, by fitness and healthy aging expert Heather Hausenblas, associate professor of kinesiology in the Jacksonville University College of Health Sciences, appears the first Monday of each month in the Outside section of The Florida Times-Union. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on JU’s Department of Kinesiology, visit http://ju.edu/chs.