Daylight saving time will begin Sunday at 2:00 a.m., stripping sleepers of an hour of precious and much-needed time. While many people feel inconvenienced by the loss of sleep, the effects of losing an hour can be more extreme than just being grouchy. The dark side of the change is that daylight saving time can lead to health risks.
Sleep deprivation affects 47 million adults in the United States, according to Science Daily. Springing ahead further fuels sleep deprivation. A poll done by the National Sleep Foundation last year shows that 43 percent of Americans admit to either not getting or rarely getting a good night's sleep during the week. Sleep deprivation can lead to memory problems, depression, weak immune systems, and increased perception of pain, WebMD reported.
The time change forces people to change their clocks. But what happens if you forget? A 1996 study shows that on the Monday after the March daylight saving time changeover the number of car accidents increases. Perhaps [it is] due to all that rushing around as well as the unexpected surprise of seeing the sun's new placement in the sky, Helena Schotland, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and a researcher at the school's sleep-disorders laboratory, told the Los Angeles Times. Suddenly you're driving home and the sun is in your eyes. The researcher believes that the rise in car accidents is due to the sudden change. Human beings like change to be gradual, she said.
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Studies have also found that fatal alcohol-related car accidents are higher following the time change. Less sleep magnifies the effects of alcohol on the body, according to WebMD.
Heart attack numbers rise in the days following the time change. One study showed that sleep deprivation can raise cortisol levels, Time reported. These cortisol levels can destabilize plaques and thus cause a heart attack or stroke. The study also showed that blood pressure drops during sleep. Less sleep equals less time of lower blood pressure, Time said. Francesco Capuccio, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and epidemiology at the Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, told The Guardian that less than six hours per night and disturbed sleep gives a person a 48 percent greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease than would otherwise be the case.