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Daylight saving time and your health: Do the spring/fall clock changes throw you off?

Let’s chat about clock changes and your health.

Many people feel off-kilter when the clock changes due to daylight saving time beginning or ending (as will happen on November 4 in the U.S. — well, most of the country). How do these changes affect you and your health? What do patients think? And what’s the latest state to propose ending or altering the clock adjustment? Let’s chat about clock changes.

Wait, what’s the deal with daylight saving time?

You probably know this by heart: “Spring forward/fall back.” In other words:

Spring = Turn the clocks ahead by one hour for daylight saving time’s start in the spring (usually a Sunday in late March).

Fall = Turn the clocks back by one hour for the end of daylight saving time in the fall (usually late October/early November) and return to plain old “standard time” for about five months.

What’s behind this time-changing ritual? In the U.S., this year marks the 100th anniversary of daylight saving time (also mistakenly called “daylight savings time”), which began in March of 2018 with the clocks “springing ahead” to make the most of daylight and save money on fuel for lighting and heating. But the clock change doesn’t save much energy these days, now that “coal is no longer king,” National Geographic reports.

Who observes it?

  • All U.S. states except Hawaii and (most of) Arizona observe daylight saving time, as TIME explains, but several states in the northeast and around the country have tried to end or adjust the practice.
  • Several countries around the world also have daylight saving time, but some European nations are considering doing away with it.

This year, California has a ballot question (Proposition 7) to lay the legal groundwork for a possible change to the daylight saving time period in the state (read more about “Prop 7” here). One main argument of those who are “Yes on 7”? Changing the clock twice a year is hazardous for people’s health and productivity, they say.

Do clock changes affect your health?

Many people say that daylight saving time can feel like jet-lag because it’s like you’ve skipped to a neighboring time zone. It can confuse both your body and mind, even more so now that most smartphones automatically update their clock app accordingly over night, but your household clocks still need to be manually changed (uhh… what time is it really? )!

Research shows that the clock changes may have serious health effects (especially in the days following “springing ahead,” when we lose an hour of sleep), such as:

“The impacts of DST are likely related to our body’s internal circadian rhythm, the still-slightly-mysterious molecular cycles that regulate when we feel awake and when we feel sleepy, as well as our hunger and hormone production schedules,” Business Insider says. Some doctors recommend making smaller, gradual schedule adjustments (such as moving your bedtime by 15 minutes x 4 days) leading up to the 1-hour clock change.

More and more research on circadian rhythm and the importance of regular bedtimes — even for adults — is emerging. (See below for poll results PatientsLikeMe members’ bedtime regularity.)

Join PatientsLikeMe or log in to check out our writeup on circadian rhythm, plus see what members say in the forums about daylight saving time beginning and ending — which can throw off their sleep cycles, mental health, treatment timing (with Parkinson’s disease and diabetes medications, for example), and more.

Polling of the general public shows mixed feelings about daylight saving time, with some polls showing an almost even split for or against it, and others indicating that the practice isn’t too bothersome to most Americans.

Take a look at some recent PatientsLikeMe poll results about daylight saving time and bedtime regularity:

(PatientsLikeMe newsfeed polls conducted October 3-23, 2018; first question: N=205; second question: N=241)

What are your thoughts on daylight saving time? How does it affect you and your health or routine? Sign up for PatientsLikeMe to talk about this topic here in the forum— and add your voice in more patient polls like the ones above!

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