We sprang forward in the Spring, now it’s time to Fall back!
This Sunday is the end of daylight savings time which means we will all be setting our clocks back by one hour. This is great because we gain an extra hour of sleep… Right? Although most people appreciate an additional hour of slumber, it is important to be aware of the physical and mental health effects of altering our sleep pattern each year.
According to Till Roenneberg, a circadian rhythm specialist at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Germany, even a single hour of daily sleep loss is enough to create a multitude of health complications in relation to our blood pressure, hormone production, metabolism, and more. This is due to the fact that our everyday routines planned around sunlight such as work and school fall out of alignment with our body’s internal biological clock. One could say that daylight savings time is comparable to a nationwide jetlag.
Although sleep is crucial to our development during childhood and adolescence and is essential to go about our daily lives, very few people get a proper amount of rest. When we do not get enough sleep we accumulate what is called “sleep debt”, and once we owe too much sleep to our bodies, we begin to feel symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Physical Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Apart from general yawning and overall fatigue, there are multiple consequences that sleep deprivation can have on our physical health…
– Lack of sleep weakens your immune system, thus taking your body longer to fight off infection and increasing your risk of chronic illness
– Your risk of Cardiovascular disease increases, as sleeping helps regenerate your blood vessels and controls your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, as well as inflammation.
– Insufficient sleep can affect your body’s production of hormones such as testosterone in men, as well as the hormones that control your hunger which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Your body also releases more insulin in response to less sleep which increases both the storage of body fat and your risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.
– Ongoing loss of sleep also increases your risk of developing respiratory diseases
– Impaired reflexes/ clumsiness
Furthermore, people with pre-existing cardiovascular issues are most susceptible to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke at the beginning of daylight savings. Studies show that blood clots form easier in the morning which is when the most heart attacks are reported to occur. If people’s natural sleep cycles are being interrupted by an hour earlier in the morning, this puts many at a 25% higher risk of severe complications, according to a study from the University of Colorado.
Mental Effects of Sleep Deprivation
In addition to the physical effects on your body, accumulated sleep debt can severely affect your overall cognitive performance in a multitude of ways such as:
– Poor ability process your emotions
– Concentration difficulties
– Compromised ability to learn or form new memories
– Lack of motivation
– Lessened empathy
– Reduced sex-drive
– Poor impulse control
– Brain fog
According to our own Dr. Di Liello, one of the dangers of sleep deprivation is that we often do not realize that we are sleep deprived. In his interview with Orla Johannes & Andrea Elias of CJAD, he explains that cognitive impairments such as decreased alertness and delayed reflexes are leading causes of accidents at work or even behind the wheel. Studies show that at the beginning of daylight savings time, there is a notable increase in car accidents caused by fatigued drivers as well as incidents in the workplace due to inattention. Other remarkable behavioral effects of daylight savings can be observed in the decrease of productivity in the workplace, poor performance in school, and increased crime rates.
Avoiding Sleep Loss : Consistency is Key
Dr. Di Liello says that consistency is absolutely necessary when we wish to optimize our sleeping habits and suggests to incorporate the following into our routines for more nights of restorative rest:
– Keep a cool, dark room as the ideal environment for optimal comfort.
– Rid your bedroom of any distracting electronics such as phones, tablets, televisions and computers.
– Avoid using your bed for work or leisure activities other than sleep, conditioning your body to link your bed with rest.
– Limit your alcohol intake
– Avoid drinking more than a glass of water an hour before bed.
– Cut the caffeine intake around 2 p.m.
The recommended amount of sleep does vary from person to person, but in general, adolescents should benefit from 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, and adults should get at least 7 to 9 hours.
It’s Time to Change your Clock
We now know the effects of sleep loss due to daylight savings on our mind and body, and although we cannot control time ourselves, being mindful of these changes and implementing better habits into our nighttime routines can make a world of a difference in our daily lives. If you have any concerns about your quality of sleep, we encourage you to bring the subject up to your family doctor as it is an important matter than tends to be overlooked.
Don’t sleep on the full conversation with Dr. Di Liello containing further insights and advice on the topic of Sleep Deprivation during his interview with Orla Johannes as well as Andrea Elias on CJAD below: