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'Falling Back' May Protect Your Heart

When you turn your clocks back this weekend for the end of daylight saving time, you might also be protecting your heart, according to new research.

Imre Janszky of the Karolinska Institute and Rickard Ljung of the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden took advantage of that country's detailed health records to examine what happened as the clocks were changed twice a year between 1987 and 2006.

In a letter published in today's New England Journal of Medicine, the pair report that the number of heart attacks that occurred on the Monday after clocks were turned back each fall was about 5 percent lower than usual.

Doctors have long known that the risk for heart attacks tends to be higher than usual on Mondays, perhaps because of the stress of starting a new work week. The Swedish researchers say that their findings suggest that sleep may also play a role, and that extra hour of slumber may be protective. Previous studies have suggested that sleep deprivation can boost blood pressure, heart rate and the risk for blood clots.

But that means we might want to watch out when spring comes around -- losing an hour of sleep when we change the clocks again may be risky for the heart. In fact, the researchers found that there was a jump in heart attacks of 6 percent to 10 percent in the week after "springing forward." So you might want to try to go to bed an hour earlier the next you switch your clocks back again next March.

By Rob Stein  |  October 30, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health  
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Next year, why don't we just set our clocks ahead a half hour and keep them that way instead of all this spring-forward-fall-back nonsense. No matter how you slice it, there's still a little over 24 hours in a day, and the little excess gets made up on Leap Day every four years. What time is being saved? All it does is mess with your circadian twice a year, and for parents of little kids and farmers, it makes for a madhouse! Not to mention since we don't really "save" time by doing it, the name is oxymoronic at best! Let's just switch ahead half an hour and leave it that way!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | October 30, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Obviously this is the result of getting an extra hour of sleep.


Posted by: FergusonFoont | October 30, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse


Hey! I too have been saying the exact thing for years. Good to know there's someone else who thinks that too.

So if there is a minus 5% in the fall and a plus 6-10% rate in the spring, the overall effect of the time change is BAD. It needs to be gotten rid of.

Posted by: cmecyclist | October 30, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm always glad to see criticism of the time change. Studies have also shown that it contributes to an increase in auto accidents.

I don't mess with my clocks. Keep my bed and meal times steady, and adjust appointment times to "my" time. As a caregiver for a dad with Alzheimer's, this also helps to keep his medication schedule on an even keel.

I wholeheartedly :-) agree: get rid of the time change.

Posted by: ParrisBoyd | October 30, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

We should just quit this stupid, pointless and primitive messing with the clock, and stick to the real time. What's the use of all this confusion? There are no energy savings-- just more accidents, illness, and disrupted sleep.

Posted by: alarico | October 30, 2008 9:21 PM | Report abuse

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