Daylight Savings Time May Negatively Affect Senior Health, Studies Say

By |2022-04-07T18:24:53+00:00April 7th, 2022|Aging, Seniors, Wellness|

The Senate Recently Passed the Sunshine Protection Act – What Does That Mean?

If you’ve kept up with the news in recent weeks, you may remember hearing that the Senate passed a measure known as the Sunshine Protection Act. This means that, if the Sunshine Protection Act passes through the house and is signed into law, we’ll have permanent daylight savings starting in November of 2023. 

No more annual clock changes. Days become longer. It sounds like a perfect way to reduce seasonal depression and general inactivity by allowing you to stay outdoors longer. There are benefits to having permanent daylight savings time. There are also several issues with the idea, some of which could be dangerous to the senior population.

How, exactly, can permanent daylight savings time be a danger to the senior population? Let’s explore some of the ways.

The “Shock” of Springing Forward Can Cause Heart Issues in Seniors

On the surface, the annual ritual of jumping forward an hour is harmless. Sure, you lose an hour of sleep, but this shouldn’t cause any health issues, right?

According to the American Heart Association, “springing” forward isn’t quite as harmless as it seems. Studies have shown recently that the loss of the hour that comes with daylight savings time may be the cause of increases in heart issues in seniors. Scientists attribute a 24% increase in daily heart attacks to the arrival of daylight savings time. Compare that to the 21% decrease in heart attacks following the time change in the fall.

The sudden jolt forward in time can cause issues with your body’s circadian rhythm, which could be a major factor in the correlation between daylight savings and heart attacks. If you’re especially susceptible to heart disease or other cardiac issues, dysfunction in circadian rhythm can trigger heart problems that could unfortunately be fatal. For instance, recent studies have uncovered a significant increase in the occurrence of Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) on the Monday following the spring time change as a result of manipulations in the sleep-wake cycle.

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The Occurrence of Daylight Savings Time and Behavioral and Cognitive Issues

When the clocks change in the spring, it can spark ongoing issues with more than just your heart. Changes during the daylight savings period have also been linked to behavioral and cognitive issues.

Our bodies are almost like clocks on their own, with our cells functioning as little time keepers. When time patterns change, our cells must work to adjust. This triggers stress in our brains and can cause a wide range of issues, which include:

  • Memory loss.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Disorientation.
  • Agitation.
  • Difficulties with general learning and social interaction.

In short, daylight savings time can cause a lot of harm to overall cognitive function.

While the cardiac issues that can cause a daylight savings heart attack are dangerous on their own, interference with our behavioral and cognitive systems can open us to a wide variety of outside threats. Behavioral and cognitive disruptions can increase risk of:

  • Car accidents.
  • Injuries at work and home.
  • Strokes.
  • Suicides. 

Just as they’ve studied the link between daylight savings and heart attacks for years, scientists are constantly looking into the correlation between daylight savings time and cognitive and behavioral impairment. The general takeaway is that daylight savings causes mutations to occur in circadian genes, which can severely disrupt circadian rhythms and functions. This can lead to the harmful effects mentioned above.

Daylight Savings and Metabolic Function

Recent studies have also shown that, just as daylight savings can have a negative effect on our cardiac, behavioral, and cognitive systems, it can also cause issues with human metabolism. It’s a known fact that regular sleep is essential to positive metabolic function. In other words, when daylight savings disrupts your sleep pattern, it also disrupts your metabolism.

The most common issue that rises as a result of metabolic dysfunction is, of course, weight gain. Weight gain on its own is a health issue, but it can lead to other more severe issues, such as:

  • Diabetes.
  • Insulin resistance.
  • Hypertension.
  • Hyperglycemia.

Is There a Way to Prevent Serious Health Issues Related to Daylight Savings Time?

As a senior, keeping up with your health and wellness is incredibly important. If you work to keep active and maintain good health, you may be able to avoid many of the negative effects that daylight savings time can bring with it.

Also, for all of its negative effects, there are positives to daylight savings. Longer periods of daylight make it possible to go out and get in a little bit of exercise if you miss your chance to do so earlier in the day. They can also provide a boost to one’s mood, especially if the day is nice, warm, and sunny.

However, those benefits do not mean that daylight savings should be a permanent solution. The harmful effects that daylight savings time can pose to your health are too risky to consider making a true change to how time works. While maintaining good health can help you stave off some of the more harmful issues related to daylight savings, the effect in the long run would likely be more detrimental than positive, especially to senior health.

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