By: EMMA CHASTAIN
Daylight saving time —yes, it is “saving” not “savings” which I was slightly embarrassed to figure out after most of my research reminded me, repeatedly, how I have been misnaming it— is a bit of a thorn in our side, especially for those of us in the professional and academic world. It just throws everything off. Are you aware of the science behind your irritation?
We thrive on routine, not only due to societally enforced pressure to, but also due to a cycle in our brain that regulates our sleeping patterns, mental, and physical behaviors. This is called our Circadian rhythm, which the Sleep Foundation defines as “24-hour cycles that regulate sleep,”.
During the March time-change, we “lose an hour of sleep”. This means that our internal clocks get knocked off their gears. Our body recognizes patterns in our daily lives and rough routines. Light, for example, is a vital part of the functioning of our circadian rhythms. Light exposure in the mornings allows our minds to wake up just as darkness in the evenings helps us wind down, signaling the gland in our brains that produces melatonin called the pineal gland. When these natural signals aren’t allowed to trigger these processes in the same ways, our sleep cycles and levels of rest are disrupted in a way that we all can recognize.
What harm can this do to our health? It is only technically an hour, right? The perfect storm that ensues when we are all collectively disrupted by the spring forward shows that there is, in fact, an impact on us mentally and physically. In a way, we live on a sort of sleep credit system until our minds adjust, and the debt to our rest time is repaid. Dr. Jade Wu, A sleep psychologist from Duke University, in an interview with ABC News, said how during the few days after the March Spring Forward events such as “fatal car accidents, heart attacks, and strokes, greater rates of suicidal thoughts, and depression symptoms and even emergency room visits,” are more common than at other times throughout the year. She affirms that this is all due to the “Circadian misalignment,” that comes from the spring forward.
Some hospitals record approximately a 24% increase in heart attacks on the Monday following the time change, compared to other Mondays throughout the rest of the year. Research done by the American Economic Journal from the years 2002 to 2011 found a 5% to 6.5% increase in fatal car accidents following Spring Daylight Saving time. We all complain about the loss of sleep and disruption that this fateful day in March causes. It seems that our grievances were somewhat valid all along.