Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday Night Fall Back to Cardiac Health

My family will tell you that I’ve have harbored a not so secret grudge against Benjamin Franklin because he invented Daylight Savings Time, first conceiving of it while an American delegate in Paris in 1784 in an essay titled, “An Economical Project.” His purpose was admiral enough: make better use of the daylight. Remember, this is the man who created or made famous that old saying: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

I have been grateful for Franklin’s role in the founding of this country, his humor, and especially his idea of
religious tolerance. But that appreciation has never made me look kindly on Daylight Savings Time. My objection is simple: it takes me days if not weeks to get over “springing forward” (a euphemism for losing an hour of sleep on the night the time changes in the spring). By the time we get to the fall and are told to “fall back” I no longer need the hour I lost months earlier. That is, I didn’t think I needed it until now.

According to an analysis in this week’s prestigious
New England Journal of Medicine and explained in plain language by the Scientific American,
Heart attacks decrease by 5 percent the first Monday after the time change, and by 1.5 percent over that week…The springtime transition to daylight saving time poses more of a health hazard: Heart attacks increase by 5 percent over the first week after clocks are pushed back an hour, spiking by 10 percent on that Tuesday
I’ll bet Ben Franklin didn’t anticipate either of these results, results that sociologists call “the unanticipated consequences of purposeful social action.”

The reasons for these phenomena weren’t clear to the researchers, but co-author of the study, Imre Janszky, suspects that changes in sleep may play a role.
Although there is little data on the cardiovascular effects of the kind of short-term sleep deprivation that occurs over the average five days it takes to adjust to moving clocks ahead in spring, chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increases in blood pressure, heart rate, blood clotting, and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation associated with deadly heart attacks.
In the last hours of this stress-inducing election campaign, it’s good to know that the extra hour of sleep on Saturday night will promote cardiac health, or as the Los Angeles Times headline put it, “End of Daylight Saving Time is good for the Heart.”

Aren’t we glad we don’t have national elections on the Tuesday after beginning Daylight Savings Time in the spring?

Take time to recharge your battery (literally perhaps) Saturday night so you will be fit and ready for the sprint to the end of the race on Tuesday.
- Milo

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