Daylight Savings Time (DST) is already upon us, which means it’s time to “spring forward” the clocks! Watch your step though; losing an hour of sleep also comes with some surprisingly hazardous maladies.
A 2015 viral video from Last Week Tonight, John Oliver, a comedian, asked why DST is “still a thing” when, “What you lose in sleep, you gain in mortal danger.”
In the days following DST reports of traffic accidents, work-related injuries, and the number of heart attacks all increase markedly. How could this be?
DST induces changes related to the body's internal circadian rhythm, the molecular cycles that regulate driving rhythms of biological processes inside the body—like when we feel awake and when we feel sleepy.
Each cell in the body has its own internal clock rhythm to prepare itself for stress or a stimulus. When this rhythm is disturbed it increases the stress response concurrently magnifying the bodily detriment. The difference is akin to knowing you’ll be giving a presentation two weeks in advance verses being surprised the day before.
Since normal immune responses are highly dependent upon the time of day, a time shift like DST puts the body in a pro-inflammatory state and desynchronizes the sympathetic tone-signals of the autonomic nervous system to keep the body at homeostasis. Circadian disruptions often lead to sleep deprivation, fatigue and related effects: moodiness, cognitive sluggishness, slow reaction times, etc.
The adverse impact of DST typically sorts itself out after a couple of days. Recovery can be hastened by acclimating to the change gradually such as waking up and then going to bed 30 minutes earlier on the days leading up to DST. Ensuring that your body is receiving the nutrition it needs to function properly and avoiding alcoholic beverages. Exercising and safely spending time in the sun accelerate this process as well. Occasionally using supplemental melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal glad, can be useful in alleviating symptoms related to circadian disruption if a deficiency exists. Even adding cryotherapy to your regimen in the days surrounding DST. Cryotherapy has been research-proven to reduce inflammation, positively affect the immune system, revitalize the blood with increased nutrients, reduce pain, and improve sleep—and it only takes 3 minutes!