November 2, 2016

How Setting the Clock Back Affects Your Health

On Sunday, November 6, 2016, at 2 am, we will set the clocks back, gaining an extra hour of sleep as Daylight Savings Time ends. Everyone is familiar with how a lack of sleep impacts our lives when we set the clocks ahead one hour in springtime, but does the fall time change affect us? Dr. David Plante answers that question with a “yes”.

“Both the spring and the fall time changes can cause sort of a temporary jet lag, as if we suddenly stepped off a plane one time zone away,” says Plante, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “Although most people adjust in a day or two, it can take some people up to a week to get used to the time change.”

A study conducted at Stanford University indicates an increase in automobile accidents on the Monday following the “Spring Ahead” time change, and a small increase in car crashes on the Sunday following the fall time change as well. The springtime accidents are caused by a lack of sleep, and the fall occurrences might be due to behavioral changes, since the extra hour before closing time means people might be out later the night before, and will have consumed more alcohol then they would on an ordinary Saturday night; they are more likely to drive while sleepy or otherwise impaired. Be vigilant and use caution when you’re driving on the roads the morning after a time change.

It’s worth mentioning that if you have medication scheduled and you take it an hour earlier or later to account for the time change, your health will not be affected. “There are very few medications taken by mouth that will be affected by a one-hour lapse” says Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart, a UW Health Family Medicine Physician. “If you are on scheduled pain medications, you may notice more pain since you have waited an extra hour, but this shouldn't otherwise affect your health.”

So when it comes time to set the clocks back this year, don’t worry about your medicine schedule. Think of some fun things you can do with that additional hour. You could always spend the extra hour getting some more sleep.

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