Did your body complain about daylight saving time? (Thinkstock)
Did your body complain about daylight saving time?
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When your alarm went off an hour early after the country moved into daylight saving time, did you want to hit the snooze button? If your body complained, it had good reason.

Most Americans lose at least an hour of sleep after setting their clocks ahead. An hour may not seem like much, but medical research suggests that it has an impact on our bodies. The switch to daylight saving time has been linked with a possible increase in the car and workplace accidents, heart attacks, and severe headaches.

One of the first persons to suggest moving the clock to keep up with the lengthening day was Ben Franklin, who argued in 1784 that having daylight last longer into the evening would be a way to save energy. Nearly 100 years later George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand artist and amateur insect collector, proposed the idea in an 1895 paper. He wanted more time to collect bugs after work. Some European countries adopted it soon after. Beginning in the 1940s, some US states adopted it, and the federal government standardized the dates in the 1960s.

Video: How does daylight saving affect the body?

Whether springing forward and falling back actually save energy is a matter of debate, as factors such as the increased use of air-conditioning come into play. Arizona and Hawaii, two states that have warm climates, have not adopted daylight saving time. Neither have many countries that lie near the earth's equator, where the change of light during shifting seasons is not as great as in the northern and southern regions of the Earth.

What is clear, however, is that the impact of daylight saving time on peoples sleep cycles can have some really nasty health consequences. A recent study by two Michigan hospitals, for example, found that they treated almost twice as many heart attack victims on the first day of daylight saving as on a typical Sunday. A Swedish study in 2008 found that the increased risk of heart attacks lasts for three days after switching to daylight saving.

What might explain these effects? The most important cue for studying our internal clocks is light. When we suddenly change the time by an hour it alters the amount of light we see during the day. The result is our internal rhythms get off kilter, as do our sleep-wake cycles, the timed release of hormones, and even our moods.

Effects on the sleep cycle present more serious consequences than you might think. Clearly sleep, or lack thereof, is a key component of psychic and physiological balance. Who hasnt felt the stupidness of fuzzy brain from lack of sleep? But research now also links poor sleeping habits to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. A study just published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that getting too little sleep just a few nights in a row can disrupt hundreds of genes, including those tied to stress and fighting diseases.

Unfortunately, the disruption of the body clock caused by daylight saving time may be long term: German researchers reported in October that our internal body clocks never really adjust to daylight saving time.

Learn more about daylight saving time.

Critical thinking challenge: Which technologies and environmental factors affect energy use?

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COMMENTS (18)
  • tiffanyc-DiB
    3/17/2015 - 08:25 a.m.

    Weirdly enough air conditioning is a huge factor of why we have a time change. The increase use of air made this occur. The increase in "heat" is also a huge factor.

  • faithd-Che
    3/18/2015 - 11:47 a.m.

    I like the fact that the time went up an hour. It stays light outside longer at night now. it also stays darker in the mornings.

  • marier-Che
    3/19/2015 - 11:46 a.m.

    this actually makes a lot of sense. we should find a way to even out hours without daylight savings. not to mention that students have to wake up early as well as adults, and the growing can be affected even worse by lack of sleep.

  • heatherh-war
    3/19/2015 - 01:24 p.m.

    I lost a lot of sleep during daylight saving times. Don't get me wrong I love having more time to do things when I get home from track practice, but I am so exhausted. It takes me almost two weeks to get back on track. Usually I fall asleep around 10:30- 11:00 and now because of the daylight saving thing, I don't fall asleep until almost midnight or one o'clock. That's crazy! I am always late getting up the first few days and it takes a while for my body to adjust, I am hungrier later and don't go to bed until later, and still have to work on getting up in the morning. Ugh! Defiantly exhausting.

  • shannons-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 02:24 a.m.

    There are many things through out the day that can contribute to your sleep loss. The biggest technology problem to sleep would be your phone. Having a screen in your face at night can cause you to lie awake in bed. Not getting exercise through out your day just simply by walking will increase your energy but have you ready for bed.

  • mattf-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 02:41 a.m.

    Yes, my body did complain about daylight savings time. I had the most difficult time switching to the 1 hour difference. I was incredibly tired. However, I love the fact that the days are longer so you can do more later at night.

  • TreyvaunT
    3/23/2015 - 01:35 p.m.

    yes it did complain about daylight savings. It does every year. I don't understand why they don't just keep the time the same. It would make things a lot better.

  • Kaitlynpo-Fre
    3/24/2015 - 01:08 p.m.

    Losing an hour of sleep due to daylight saving time has a huge impact on our bodies, especially when that hour that we lose is stacked up and up every single night. Since it has such an impact on our bodies, and now we even have scientific fact to prove it, I don't understand why we still follow it.

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