How Springing Forward Can Harm Your Heart

daylight savings time spring forwardAlthough many of us are looking forward to warmer spring weather this March, very few people will enjoy springing forward—the seasonal changing of the clocks that marks daylight savings time each spring and fall. Not only does this shift leave us a bit short of sleep, it may also be bad for your heart.

This is according to a study that found a 10-24% increase in heart attacks the Monday and Tuesday following the annual one-hour leap forward. Why might this be the case?

One way that daylight savings may contribute to increased heart attack risk is through lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is recognized more generally as a risk factor for many conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Daylight Savings Time places even those who regularly get enough sleep in a position of sleep deprivation.

In addition to sleep, the one-hour time shift can increase inflammation in the body. This is because every cell in our bodies has its own internal clock. The time of day can influence the presence or absence of inflammation in the body. More inflammation occurs overnight, so waking up one hour earlier than our bodies expected can result in an increased immune response. This, in turn, can negatively impact the heart.

How do you prevent daylight savings time from affecting your heart?

Researchers recommend helping your body adjust more gradually to the time shift over the course of the weekend or even the week before. Adjusting more slowly to the time difference, as in 10- or 20-minute intervals per day, can eliminate the potentially harmful effects of a more abrupt time shift. For example, if you usually wake up at 8 am, then set your alarm for 7:40 am on Saturday and 7:20 am on Sunday and 7 am on Monday.

Other ways to help your body adjust to daylight savings time include sleeping for 7 hours, eating a heart-healthy breakfast, being outside in the sun, working out at home or work, and staying active with exercise, such as walking or bicycling. All of these tips will help your body readjust to the change in light and time.

Next steps