This Sunday, the clocks move ahead one hour as Daylight Saving Time (DST) 2023 kicks off. What started as a World War I practice to save energy is now a welcome opportunity to enjoy sunnier evenings. But while brighter days are a major perk of DST, this practice may also have a negative impact on your health. Losing an hour of the day is an adjustment that can disrupt your sleep schedule, for several days or longer; and science believes that poor sleep, even for short stretches of time, can increase your risk of heart failure. Here’s what the research tells us about the connection between a lack of sleep and heart troubles.
How Daylight Saving Time May Negatively Affect Heart Health
Research demonstrates that sleep deprivation can be dangerous to heart health, especially in the days following the beginning of DST. A 2014 study compared the rate of heart attack hospitalizations surrounding DST changes in spring versus fall, in order to see how DST could impact the timing and occurrence of heart attacks. For this study, researchers analyzed hospital admissions related to heart attacks using a cardiology database; and the authors focused on hospitalizations in the weeks following four spring and three fall DST adjustments between March 2010 and September 2013.
The results: Researchers found that the day after the spring time change (when we “spring forward” in March) was linked with a 24 percent increase in daily heart attack hospitalizations. By contrast, two days following the fall DST change (when we “fall back” in November) was associated with a 21 percent reduction of heart attacks. Other weekdays after DST changes didn’t show a significant difference in these hospitalizations. The authors theorize that the fall time change allowing for more sleep influenced the lower rate of heart attack-related hospitalizations, as compared to the spring. In general, sleep deprivation is reported to raise blood pressure levels — further contributing to heart complications.
Prolonged sleep issues can also increase your risk of heart disease. A February 2023 study published in Journal of the American Heart Association investigated the link between sleep irregularity and heart disease; over half of the 2,032 participants were women, and adults had an average age of 69. For one week, participants completed a sleep diary and wore a wrist actigraph device to measure their rest pattern. Ultimately, participants with inconsistent sleep schedules were more likely to have calcium and plaque buildup in their arteries, as compared to those with regular sleep durations. (Over time, this buildup may lead to coronary heart disease.)
Researchers surmise that cardiovascular functions such as heart rate and blood pressure are regulated by the body’s internal clock. An unsteady sleep-wake cycle can otherwise hinder the functions that keep your heart healthy. “We know that people who get adequate sleep manage other health factors better as well, such as weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure,” Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, FAHA, said in an American Heart Association statement. As a result, Dr. Lloyd-Jones encourages seven to nine hours of shut-eye nightly as a way to protect your heart.
The Bottom Line
The days are about to get shorter, but good-quality sleep is vital to your heart health. So, make rest a priority by reducing your screen time before bed or sipping a soothing cup of tea to relax. While DST could be a trigger for some health issues, changing the clocks twice a year may not be a forever practice. Currently, the Sunshine Protection Act is being reintroduced by senators to permanently keep the clocks an hour ahead. Why? Falling back an hour is often viewed as unnecessary and dangerous, since it gets darker much earlier. Although the future of this bill and the fall DST change hangs in the balance, the best thing to do right now is sleep tight. Achieving great rest on a nightly basis will help keep your heart health in tip-top shape.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.