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Daylight Savings Wrecking Your Health?

There are a lot of things I love about living in Arizona. And right up there at the top of the list is the fact that we don't follow Daylight Savings Time. Daylight Savings Time was enacted in 1966 as a way to conserve energy. It was never meant to be permanent. Yet here we are, 55 years later and we're still messing with nature.

But here's the problem: What might have been good for the environment (this part is debatable) is not good for your health (this part is not debatable). And now studies are pouring in, showing just how dangerous it can be...

See, your body has a central clock in your brain, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. It responds to light entering your eyes, and then helps your body keep time with the earth. From there your circadian rhythm regulates hormones, metabolism, and immune function. It even has a hand in inflammation.

But throwing off your master clock can throw off all of the tiny clocks in all of your organs and tissues. And science is revealing that messing with these clocks--caused by things like staying up too late at night, jet lag, not following a daily pattern, or say, Daylight Savings Time--can be devastating for your health. In fact, the time change can have both immediate and long-term consequences.

Incredibly enough, in the days following the time change, there is a measurable increase in heart attacks, strokes, suicide, and fatal car crashes. In fact, two studies have shown that hospitals see a 24 percent increase in heart attack victims the Monday after the clocks change. Both of these studies also showed that there was a 21 percent drop in heart attacks after returning to the standard time in the fall!

In the long-term, circadian disruption has been associated with an increased risk of heart problems, cancer, metabolic syndrome, immune dysfunction, mood disorders, learning deficits, reproductive problems, and even premature death.

Besides the hit Daylight Savings Time takes on your health, the reason for implementing it (to conserve energy) doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Studies have shown that the time change fails to conserve electricity--and in some cases, they've found an increase in energy consumption.

Since you can't change Daylight Savings Time, these health risks highlight the importance of following your body's circadian rhythm as closely as possible until clocks get turned back in November. You can do that by getting plenty of morning sunlight in your eyes and limiting blue light at night.

To a brighter day,

Dr. Richard Gerhauser, M.D.