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The Connection between Daylight Savings, Insomnia, and Hypertension

Published on Oct 03, 2023 | 11:27 AM

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"Springing forward" and "falling back" might seem like a minor inconvenience, but the switch to daylight savings time can have big consequences for our health. Studies link daylight savings time to a rise in insomnia and hypertension, revealing just how disruptive this biannual time change can be. So as we prepare to turn our clocks ahead yet again, it's worth taking a closer look at the potential toll it could be taking on our bodies and minds.

What is daylight savings time?

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting the clock forward by one hour during the warmer months and back by one hour during the cooler months. This is done to make better use of the available daylight during the longer days of spring and summer.

During DST, the sun appears to rise and set one hour later than usual, which means that people who follow a regular work schedule can take advantage of the additional daylight in the evenings. Daylight savings time is observed in many countries around the world, but not all countries nor parts of the United States participate in this practice.

In the United States, for example, DST begins on the second Sunday of March, when clocks are moved forward by one hour, and ends on the first Sunday of November, when clocks are moved back by one hour. According to TIME, at the time of writing, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, parts of Arizona, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands are the parts of America that do not recognize daylight savings. 

Does daylight savings time cause insomnia?

According to the Sleep Foundation, daylight savings time directly correlates with insomnia in Americans. Despite it providing more daylight hours and energy savings, DST also disturbs a person's natural circadian rhythm, an interest in untested sleep aids, and can temporarily ruin a person’s daily schedule. For those prone to insomnia, this is a recipe for the condition to become unbearable. Here's how. 

How insomnia affects your circadian rhythm is easy to explain. As stated by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the circadian rhythm is the behavior, physical actions, and mental state a person has in response to their surrounding environment. Entirely responsive to light, daylight savings time makes a heavy change in this way by reducing light exposure in the morning and more in the evening. Where light would naturally wake a person up, people subject to DST need to push past natural boundaries to when light is less prevalent. The opposite is true in the evening, where due to the evening featuring so much light, people will need to adjust their surroundings to reduce incoming light. 

The disruption of a person’s natural circadian rhythm can push them to seek sleep aids. That has pushed many toward melatonin supplements, something that has grown popular in the last decade. Used by over 25% of American adults, 88% of those adults report that the aid helps with falling asleep faster. However, just over 40% of those same adults take over the recommended three milligrams. While overdosing is difficult, people who take too much are more likely to have nightmares, fall, have spells of dizziness, and be prone to some form of sedation the next day. All of this has caused the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to caution against melatonin use until the appropriate investigations can be completed. 

While according to PubMed, melatonin can be helpful to a disturbed circadian rhythm, but it can just as easily make things worse. For example, if taken at the wrong dose or time, the sleep aid can cause restless sleep or mess with a person’s natural mechanisms used for sleep. Such conditions can either initiate insomnia or cause it to flair back up. 

Does daylight savings time affect blood pressure?

The connection between daylight savings and hypertension is much easier to explain. As detailed by the CDC, your blood pressure naturally goes down when you sleep while it goes back up when you’re awake. More time awake means more time with high blood pressure. Additionally, with the regular consumption of coffee and other stimulants comes a spike in blood pressure that, on a normal basis, may not be negative, but with lack of sleep, is certainly not beneficial. For those who are vulnerable to hypertension, daylight savings can be rough on the body when due preparations are not taken. 

Managing your health during Daylight Savings Time

Be Responsible with Sleep Aids: Sleep aids should be viewed similarly to other drugs, as in they can be abused and have adverse reactions. Those being drawn to sleep aids like melatonin or other substances should:

  1. Ask a medical professional’s council
  2. Research the recommended dosages
  3. Avoid long-term use
  4. Avoid mixing with other substances
  5. Follow directions 
  6. Pay special attention to side effects
  7. Safely store

Implementing Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques differ per the person doing them, but the common view is that each helps to clear the mind of stress. Here are some of the most popular options we’ve found through our research:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Moments of solitude
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Prayer
  • Yoga/Tai Chi

Maintaining a Consistent Sleep Schedule: With Daylight Savings happening on Sunday the 12th of March in 2023, people are sure to have a rough start to the day and the following week. Unlike decades before, when people set their alarm clocks forward before bed, smartphones automate the jump during the night. That can mean an unexpected alarm an hour earlier in the morning and forcing your body into a schedule that might feel unnatural. We recommend getting a head start on it by going to bed slightly earlier than usual and preparing to wake up at the time you normally would. 

Seek out Professional Advice: Medical professionals can offer an excellent opportunity for you to not only seek out a solution to your insomnia but also help spot potential ongoing problems. A consultation by a provider like Call-On-Doc focuses on the problems you are facing with your body and produces a practical solution. 

Source:

  1. Ducharme, Jamie. “Why These States Don't Do Daylight Saving Time.” TIME Magazine, 4 November 2017, https://time.com/5005600/states-without-daylight-savings-time/.
  2. Danielle Pacheco and Anis Rehman. “Daylight Saving Time - How Time Change Affects Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 16 February 2023, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm/daylight-saving-time.
  3. “Circadian Rhythms.” National Institute of General Medical Sciences, 5 April 2022, https://nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx.
  4. Graham, Brianna. “How Much Melatonin Do Adults Really Take?” Sleep Foundation, 20 October 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/how-much-melatonin-do-adults-really-take.
  5. Lillie, Laura. “Deprived of Sleep, Many Turn to Melatonin Despite Risks.” WebMD, 18 April 2022, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20220418/melatonin-risks-what-to-know.
  6. Tucci, Valter. “Melatonin, Circadian Rhythms, and Sleep.” PubMed, May 2003, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12670411/.
  7. “How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health? | cdc.gov.” CDC, 4 January 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm.

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Wayne C. Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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