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Daylight Savings Has a Negative Effect on Health, Fitness

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The New York Post

 

Still feel groggy after setting your clock back last weekend? You're not alone. Experts say that the end of daylight saving time — and the curtain of darkness that falls at 4:30 p.m. every day — can wreak strange havoc on our bodies and minds for days after the fact.

"It's like a little bit of jet lag — just like flying to Chicago," Saul Rothenberg, Ph.D., a psychologist and sleep specialist in Connecticut and Long Island, tells The Post. Although he says some people aren't affected too badly by the "extra" hour of sleep, with symptoms limited to "general grogginess" or nothing at all, more sensitive types "may experience stomach issues like diarrhea."

The worst health risks of daylight saving time mostly occur in March: Heart attacks jump 25 percent the Monday after we "spring forward" and lose an hour of sleep, according to the American College of Cardiology.

Still, people with heart disease should know that sleep-cycle disruption of any kind can precipitate a rise in heart rate and blood pressure that can lead to a heart attack, says Dr. Benjamin Hirsh, director of preventive cardiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, LI.

"The heart responds to routine," says Hirsh.

"Recent studies demonstrate that any disruption in the hormonal regulatory cycle," such as a change in sleeping patterns, "can be a trigger for heart attacks," he says.

Knowing these risks, why is daylight saving time still so widely practiced? Since the time change was first enacted in 1918, to allow more daylight for working hours and to conserve energy, its purported purpose has changed numerous times throughout its 100-year history. Today, it is seen by many to be outdated and inefficient, and some states, such as Arizona and Hawaii, don't follow it at all.

But a change of laws regulating daylight saving time may soon be on the way-too-dark horizon. Massachusetts and Maine have bills in their legislatures proposing to ditch the time change. Florida has passed a bill, but requires federal approval to change the policy. And on Tuesday, California will vote on the issue.

And New York could be next. Assemblyman Clyde Vanel, D-Queens, introduced a bill at the end of this year's legislative session — which he plans to reintroduce next year pending a successful re-election Tuesday — to create a task force that will study whether New York state should eliminate the time change completely.

He was inspired to see what our society would be like with more sunlight, especially in winter, after visiting Europe last year, where it didn't get dark until around 9:30 p.m.

"It would be interesting to see how eliminating the time change would affect mental health and productivity," Vanel says. He also consulted other assembly members from upstate farming areas. "I have some members from the agricultural parts of New York state that are interested in keeping the extended light hours."

Vanel says that he did some research on his own, but "no one had a good answer" about any of the issues surrounding daylight saving time. He hopes the task force can provide a report to the assembly, senate and governor within the next year.

"I don't imagine a New York where it's still light out at 10 p.m.," says Vanel. "But when it gets dark at 4 p.m., it's too early. We aren't vampires."

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November 6, 2018
 
 
 

 

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