How the ‘fall back’ time change can affect your health

RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — Many Americans see the end of daylight saving time as a wonderful night of an extra hour of sleep.  However, for many of us, it can mean days of headaches, limited productivity and other negative health effects.

  1. How does a time change affect the body?

ANSWER: Even an hour time change (forward or backwards) can disrupt your daily or circadian rhythm and result in changes in the way hormones are released.  While the spring change seems to be more associated with increased risk for heart attack in the days following, the fall change has its own set of problems.

The fall time change also ushers in months of short days and long nights for people in higher latitudes, which can bring on symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and depression.  People struggle with staying awake in the evening and keeping to their original routine during the day and night becomes difficult—fatigue, limited productivity and difficulty concentrating.

  1. Why do these changes occur?

ANSWER:  In a word—its all about light exposure.  Even an hour difference in light exposure can affect your body’s internal clock.  Our brains regulate our sleep-wake cycle via exposure to light.  For example, At night when it is dark, our brains make melatonin—called the vampire hormone—which helps us sleep.  When we have disturbed light exposure, we change brain chemistry and this can result in less sleep.

When we have less sleep, we also can change other hormone levels—we release more cortisol and other stress hormones—Blood pressure and heart rate can increase and we can put more stress on the heart and circulatory system.  In fact, many scientists see an increased risk for heart attack and stroke during the days following a time change

  1. What can we do to lessen these effects?

ANSWER:  Here are some tips to make it an easier transition this week now that we have had the time change last night

  • Limit Alcohol
  • Exercise
  • Maximize Natural Light Exposure during the day
  • Try Light Therapy for energy.  (light boxes cost 20 dollars or less) provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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