It’s time to move the clocks forward once again, and with the begrudging arrival of Daylight Saving Time comes the inconvenience of a lost hour of sleep. For some, however, it also brings heart attacks, according to a recently published study.
The study looked at a Michigan insurance database to look at hospital admission records over four years. The records contained information about people who came to the hospital for heart attacks; in total, the research group looked at data for over 42,000 heart attacks. What they found was that the Monday after Daylight Saving Time changes brought on a 24 percent increase in heart attacks.
Conversely, the Tuesday following the end of daylight saving time saw a 21 percent fall in heart attacks.
It’s important to note that while there is a correlation between the rise in heart attacks and the arrival of Daylight Saving Time, the change does not directly cause heart attacks to happen. The loss of an hour is bound to cause some discomfort and adjustment at least — and getting too little sleep has been shown to contribute to heart problems — but it’s likely that those who experience a heart attack may have had an increased risk of doing so anyway, according to Dr. Hitinder Gurm, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System.
“It’s something that has also been seen with other stressors. It seems like people who are more prone to get heart attacks, their heart attacks may be more precipitated by the stress.”
“I think all of us need to get some more sleep,” he added.
Because of this, what triggers a heart attack for many people this time of year isn’t just the loss of an hour of sleep — it’s the stress that comes with it. Daylight Saving Time’s unpopularity has caused many to try to abolish it completely, using this study to further their campaigns.
According to LiveScience, when researchers looked at weekly totals instead of daily totals, “the number of heart attacks during the week before and after the time changes stayed pretty much the same as other weeks examined in the study.”
For those concerned with the detrimental effects of Daylight Saving Time on health, the best thing to do is to start sleeping earlier every night to prepare for the time change. This helps smooth the transition between the changing times so your circadian rhythm isn’t suddenly thrown for a loop. If you don’t feel like getting a head start, don’t worry; your body is quick to adjust to its new schedule.
As a bonus, the risk of heart attacks, which has always been greatest on Mondays, will fall after the day is over.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]