Springing ahead causes real heartache | Health
While most everyone likes having an extra hour of daylight come springtime, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who is excited about waking up an hour earlier when the country sets its clocks an hour ahead for daylight saving time.
And if you think getting up an hour early is rough, researchers at UAB’s Division of Cardiovascular Disease say that on the Monday and Tuesday after we “spring ahead,” there is a 10 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack.
“Exactly why this happens is not known but there are several theories,” UAB Associate Professor Dr. Martin Young said in a release from the hospital. “Sleep deprivation, the body’s circadian clock and immune responses all can come into play when considering reasons that changing the time by an hour can be detrimental to someone’s health.”
Not getting enough sleep can alter certain body processes, Young says, such as inflammatory response, which can contribute to heart attacks. And, for the most part, Young says, people who are sleep-deprived also weigh more and are at an increased risk for developing diabetes and heart disease.
Young also said that one’s attitude toward the changing time and amount of sleep can also be a factor.
“Your reaction to sleep deprivation and the time change also depends on whether you are a morning person or night owl,” he said. “Night owls have a much more difficult time with springing forward.”
Something else to consider is your body’s internal or circadian clock. Your cells have their own “clocks” that let them know when certain things are going to happen and how to prepare. The time change for your cells, Young says, is sort of like being told you have a presentation at 2 p.m., and then at the last minute, it being moved up an hour earlier without notice.
“The internal clocks in each cell can prepare it for stress or a stimulus. When time moves forward, cell clocks are anticipating another hour to sleep that they won’t get, and stress worsens; it has a much more detrimental effect on the body,” Young said.
Another theory lies within the immune system. The cells in your immune system respond differently at different times of day. In a study using mice, the survival of the animals depended on what time of day they were given certain chemicals used to trigger the immune system.
Despite all of these factors working against us at the start of next week, your body does bounce back rather quickly, Young said.
Some researchers are looking at different medications to “re-sync” the body after a time change, such as using melatonin tablets; however Young says there are natural approaches to get you over the hump.
Waking up 30 minutes earlier this Saturday and Sunday than you normally do during the work week will help you adjust more easily, as will eating a good breakfast, going outside and soaking up the sunlight and exercising.
“Doing all of this will help reset the central, or master, clock in the brain that reacts to changes in light/dark cycles,” Young said. “This will enable your body to naturally synch with the change in the environment, which may lessen your chance of adverse health issues on Monday.”