Daylight saving time (DST) is despite dubious benefits still in effect and each year source of considerable discomfort and even health issues for many individuals. There were many attempts against it, some successful, but none leading to worldwide universal repeal. Still, there are ways you can prepare yourself for DST and avert any possible issues.
DST has significant effects on health and general well-being. One Australian study from 2008 found that male suicide rates rise in the weeks after spring DST (10). Even more, first two days of DST are associated with higher rates of stroke (study conducted in Finland) and a between 10 and 24 % increase in the risk of having a heart attack when the DST comes into effect in March each year (study conducted in the United States) (11, 12). Effect on sleep quality is even more pronounced and DST can affect more sensitive individuals far longer than others when it comes to the circadian rhythm (body’s inner clock). Studies have shown that while some adjust to DST practically immediately, others require up to 2 weeks (13).
Despite the inevitability of DST, if you live in a country that adheres to it, there are ways you can prepare yourself for the earlier rising and lessen the negative effect on your health and wellbeing. Here’s how.
Early bird gets the worm (and is better prepared for DST)
One of the easiest ways to ready yourself for DST is to gradually start moving the clock ahead before it has to be shifted a full hour. Each night, for a few days before DST, you get to bed earlier and each morning wake up a bit earlier. More specifically, it is recommended to try to reset your inner body clock by going to bed earlier and waking up on average 15 to 20 minutes earlier a few days before the DST shift and an additional 15 to 20 minutes the day before DST. Adhering to such a regime will help your body transition more smoothly and gradually instead of suddenly, which can really wreck your circadian rhythm for a considerable time and negatively affect your work or school performance.
A cup that can keep you up too long
Another simple way of lessening the discomfort associated with DST is to limit your caffeine intake before you go to bed. Caffeine, whether in coffee or soda (many contain caffeine or some other psychoactive stimulant, read the label for more information) is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and the world’s most widely consumed (legal) psychoactive drug that, among other effects, reduces fatigue and drowsiness (improving general performance). It is therefore no surprise that just in the United States in 2014 about 85 % of all adults consumed on average 164 mg of caffeine daily (in drinks or in some other form) (14).
A cup that inebriates is also a bad idea
Alcohol is vaguely in the same league as caffeine since it falls within the definition of psychoactive drug, but with practically the opposite effect on the human body and psyche and many short-term and long-term adverse effects on health. As a CNS suppressant it can cause drowsiness, leading some to believe it is a great way to fall asleep faster, but experts disagree. Alcohol actually prevents you from getting quality sleep and contributes to feeling worse when you wake up, aggravating any discomfort caused by DST. Research likewise suggests avoiding large, caloric meals before bedtime and instead satisfying hunger with smaller snacks such as bananas, almonds or oatmeal.
Exercising outside can help
Sunlight has many positive effects on health, besides the obvious harmful ones when being exposed to too much of it, like sunburns and an increase in skin cancer risk. On of benefits is production of vitamin D in the skin, when exposed to sunlight (specifically UVB radiation), which has many benefits of its own, including strengthening bones (preventing rickets in children) and may even inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer (this potential benefit is still under scrutiny and more research is needed) (15).
Napping better than sleeping
Cumulative application of aforementioned recommendations should be more than sufficient to help you overcome the travails of DST with as little discomfort as possible, but you may still feel sleepy the day after DST comes into effect. It is recommended you should at most take a short nap in the afternoon, but no more than 20 minutes in duration. The nap should also take place during daylight and not in the evening.
Special care for those with Alzheimer’s
Challenges of DST can be especially acute in those suffering from the Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that is the culprit for about 60 to 70 % cases of dementia and manifests as disorientation, problems with language, loss of motivation, mood swings and other behavioural issues, including the inability to care of oneself (16). In 2015 there were about 46 million people worldwide with AD (17). And for most patients with AD, any changes in their daily routine, like the ones DST brings, can increase confusion and agitation, which is often most pronounced at dusk and continuing throughout the night. Special care should therefore be taken when dealing with patients with Alzheimer’s, with recommendations (for the caregivers) including getting plenty of rest, reducing stimulation during the evening hours and keeping the home well-lit in the evenings and early morning.
Note: Overview of tips and tricks for coping with effects of DST was written on the basis of article Daylight saving time 2019 starts on Sunday. Here’s how to prepare so you’re not tired on Monday., written by Nicole Spector (original available at www.nbcnews.com/better/amp/ncna979556) and augmented with additional information for a more comprehensive overview of DST and its health implications.