When The Clock Springs Forward: Sunday Isn’t Bad, But Beware Of Monday

By Dr. Dave Hnida

DENVER (CBS4) – The dreaded weekend is here. The weekend when we lose an extra hour of sleep… it ranks as my worst of the year. I just simply dread it. 

Even though it’s one little measly hour, I feel like I have jet lag for a good week or two after the clocks spring forward. But it turns out the sluggishness I have is more than just a state of mind. There are some definite physical changes that take place in the body when we reset the hands on the clock.

But here is good deal: Even though there is some short-term misery for some of us, there is some long-term gain as we pick up more daylight and more sunshine.

Let’s start with the not-so-good.

The Monday after the time change is simply a day of health stress on your body. Heart attack rates jump by more than 25 percent on that day as many of us head off to work. Rates of stroke rise as well. The rates slowly level out over the course of the week and then gradually return to normal. But that first day, and days right afterwards, simply can be literally a killer.

Here’s the other big one. Stay off the roads (as if that’s simple). That’s because the rate of automobile accidents bump up close to 10 percent for that first week after the time change. Good luck with that Monday morning commute.

A less serious, but nonetheless painful, is a jump in the number of throbbing heads. Migraine and other vascular headaches tend to be more common in the week after the time switch than any other week of the year.

Now for the good news. As the days lengthen, there are some gradual yet definite changes that take place in body chemistry because of the effects of more sunlight. Even if everything else stays the same in terms of how you take care of yourself, we know that blood pressure naturally falls a few points as does your cholesterol level. It is easier to lose weight. There is less depression. And as we head into the months ahead, we do tend to require less sleep although energy levels bump upward.

The reason for all of these changes, both good and bad, have to do with internal circadian rhythms and how we secrete certain hormones from the brain to the rest of the body. Those adjustments, though, take time to kick in, at least the positive ones. And the jolt to the system in those first few days as we spring ahead tend to be a bit more on the negative side.

So what can you do?

Well that clock change will be here before we know it, so gradually changing your internal body clock is a little late to do at this point in time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tweak a few things to make the transition a little more body friendly.

Some of the advice is pretty standard stuff. For example, limit your alcohol in the days ahead.  Make sure that you get exercise, but be sure that that exercises done at least three hours before you want to hit the sack. Turn off your electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime, as research shows that the wavelength of light emitted from, say your cell phone, is a type that interferes with sleep. Try to hit the sack on a consistent basis time wise. And last but not least, do your best to get outside and get some early morning sunshine into those eyeballs. This technique is well known as a way to ease jet lag because early morning sunshine causes the brain to release hormones that help your body adjust to time changes. And sunlight does literally go from the eyes back through some nerves to hormone centers in the brain.

Bottom line, feeling not so hot as we spring forward is not all in your head. Don’t stress that heart… and be extra careful when you get behind the wheel next week.

So maybe I will just slowly stroll to work on Monday. And wait for October to get my stolen hour back.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida

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