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Daylight Savings Time

Sunday we “spring forward” and move our clocks an hour forward. It seems like a simple thing. What could go wrong?

What’s the purpose of Daylight Savings Time? When or more importantly why did it start?

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting the clocks forward 1 hour from standard time during the summer months, and back again in the fall, in order to make better use of natural daylight.

Daylight savings time has been used since WWI, initially as an effort to conserve fuel needed to create electricity. After the War ended, the law proved so unpopular (mostly because people rose earlier and went to bed earlier than people do today) that the law was repealed and it became a local option. Since that time it’s been used inconsistently. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. beginning in 2007. In most countries Daylight Savings time begins at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.

Does changing the time make a difference? The Monday after the time change, most people are exhausted. Many of us feel like we don’t get enough sleep as it is, so sacrificing an hour (on a weekend no less) seems like a giant sacrifice!

Now days daylight savings time seems less necessary. Yes, I’ll admit, I like that it’s still daylight when I leave work. But is that really worth losing an hour of sleep?

Does losing that hour of sleep make any difference?

Generally, adjusting to the time change in the spring is more difficult than when the clocks go back one hour in the fall. But losing an hour of sleep may do more than just make you feel groggy -- it could have a serious impact on your mood, motor skills, appetite, and even your heart.

On average, Americans lose 40 minutes of sleep when we set the clocks ahead in the spring. These sleep disturbances can lead mood disruptions and increased irritability.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to workplace injuries due to affected motor skills.

Research has also shown a spike in car crashes following daylight saving time changes.

Changing the clocks can even affect your heart leading to an increase in a common type of stroke. Researchers from Finland analyzed over a decade of stroke data and found that the overall rate of ischemic stroke -- which accounts for the majority of stroke cases and is caused by a clot blocking blood flow to the brain -- was 8% higher during the first two days after a daylight saving time transition.

And while not as serious, losing an hour of sleep can also wreak havoc on your diet. Any amount of sleep deprivation can affect the hormone levels in the body, which can lead to changes in appetite, an increase in cravings, and potential overeating.

How can you combat the time change pitfalls? Give yourself time to adjust to the change. Try going to bed earlier.

Expose yourself to light. Seeing light soon after you wake up can help reset your internal clock. Maybe enjoy your breakfast in front of a window.

Avoid caffeine and other stimulants after lunch so that they don’t impede sleep. And try to avoid naps during the day so that your sleep at night isn’t affected.

Most of all, give yourself a break. Understand that you may be tired and moving more slowly during this time change. Give yourself time to adjust without feeling the need to be “perfect.”

I like to look at it as a sign that winter is ending and spring is on the way!

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