As Spring Forward Day approaches and clocks are turned back one hour this Sunday, the call for an end to Daylight Savings Time (DST) is being heard from two leading cardiovascular scientists.
Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum and Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, both with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research, have conducted new studies that further highlight the negative health consequences of DST. As the two Manitoba members of the Canadian Society of Chronobiology (CSC) which advocates for the elimination of twice-yearly time changes, Drs. Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin support a move for Manitoba to switch to permanent Standard Time (ST) as a mechanism for improved public health.
“Our labs study the link between circadian rhythm and cardiovascular health,” explains Dr. Kirshenbaum, who is Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, and Professor, Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, at University of Manitoba.
“Recent work we’ve been doing is showing a strong link that further substantiates the very real and detrimental effects of DST on cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of heart attacks and heart disease in people who work shifts, and it may differ between men and women,” he says.
Drs. Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin believe that a move for Manitoba to switch to permanent standard time would be a positive investment in the long-term health outcomes of Manitobans.
Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin, who is Principal Investigator, Women’s Heart Health and Cardiometabolic Function at St. Boniface Hospital Research and Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, explained how Standard Time would put the social clock closer to our intrinsic body clock, our circadian rhythm, which is set by the dawn.
“We specifically found that the circadian clock regulates a crucial adaptive stress response which affects the ability of the heart to control quality control mechanisms and survival of heart cells after a heart attack. So, maintaining a healthy circadian clock is important not only for disease prevention, but also affects the outcomes following heart attack,” she says.
Both Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin believe moving Manitoba to permanent Standard Time would help prevent the negative effects of DST on physical and mental health, including increased risks for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, and some forms of cancer.
“This is vitally important for many people, but particularly for shift workers, many of whom work in the healthcare field,” Rabinovitch-Nikitin emphasizes.
Approximately 1.6 billion people worldwide change their clocks twice a year to and from DST. Documented research in this area has shown DST can make it difficult for shift workers to adjust their internal clocks to their work schedule, leading to sleep deprivation, fatigue, and decreased cognitive function, which can negatively impact their physical wellbeing and health. Other public health statistics linked to DST include:
- Studies have shown that the risk of heart attacks increases by 24% on the Monday following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: New England Journal of Medicine)
- The incidence of stroke is also higher in the days following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: American Academy of Neurology)
- There is a 6% increase in fatal car accidents in the week following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: University of Colorado)
- Sleep deprivation due to the time change in the spring is associated with increased rates of workplace injuries, workplace accidents, and lower productivity. (source: Journal of Applied Psychology)
- DST disrupts our natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to a higher risk of depression and anxiety. (source: Journal of Biological Rhythms)
- Studies have shown that the switch to DST in the spring is associated with an increase in suicide rates. (source: International Journal of Legal Medicine)
- For more information on the CSC, visit their website at www.chronobiology.ca