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The health effects of moving back and forth through time

The fun and excitement of Halloween are over. Next on the agenda is the US presidential elections and then it’s time to get ready for Thanksgiving. But before these, you’ll have to “fall back” to Standard Time (ST) this weekend.

For us Europeans, however, the time switch was last weekend so by now, we have recovered and gotten back to our routine. This post brings you the latest update on the health effects of moving back and forth in time.

What are the bad effects of time change?

Aside from the usual sleeping disturbance and daytime tiredness, time shifts may have real serious effects on our health. A Swedish study found association between increased rate of acute heart attacks and time change. Specifically, the significant increase was observed during the first 3 days after shifting to DST in spring and the first weekday after shifting to FT. The reason for this is probably due to sleep deprivation that in turn adversely affects cardiovascular health. The first working day after the time change is especially critical since people tend to stay up late on the weekend only to wake up early on Monday morning.

Who is affected and when?

  • Women tend to suffer from heart attack during the spring time shift. Men suffer more during the fall time shift.
  • Young adults below 65 are more likely to have a heart attack during both time shifts than those older than 65.
  • Night owls feel the effect more and take longer to recover during the spring shift than morning persons. However, night owls recover quickly in the fall.

What can we do to minimize the health problems?

Last March, when we had to “spring forward” to Daylight Saving Time (DST), this post gave you some tips how to make the time transition easier for you and your family. An additional advice for those highly at risk is to avoid sudden changes in your routine and make the transition as gradual as possible.

C’mon. It’s time to reset those clocks!


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