Bad ticker: Does daylight saving time cause ‘biological clock shock’ to your heart?

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Can springing forward cause problems for your ticker? Switching to daylight saving time may cause more than losing an hour of sleep; it may also have a negative impact on your heart and brain health, according to several studies. 

The American Heart Association said several scientific reports suggest the upcoming time change is associated with an increase in the incidence of heart disease and stroke during the spring ahead time transition. 

Clock technician Dan LaMoore adjusts clock hands on a large outdoor clock 
((AP Photo/Steven Senne))

The “spring forward” to daylight saving time involves setting clocks forward one hour from standard time as we transition to summer months. The purpose is to extend natural daylight however; many scientific studies report this practice has significant impacts on one’s health in the days following this time transition. 


“We don’t really know the specific reason for increases in heart disease and stroke during the daylight saving time change, but it likely has something to do with the disruption to the body’s internal clock, or its circadian rhythm,” American Heart Association President Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, and chair of the department of preventive medicine, the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research, said in the American Heart Association report. 

Child and adult holding red heart with stethoscope.

Child and adult holding red heart with stethoscope.
(Credit: iStock)

The American Heart Association cited several studies demonstrating the detrimental health affects this one-hour loss of sleep potentially creates. One Michigan study found that the Monday following the ‘spring forward’ time change was associated with a 24 percent increase in daily heart attack incidents. The Michigan study authors noted that conversely, there was a 21 percent reduction in heart attacks on the Tuesday following the fall time change where one gains an hour of sleep. 

Another study in Finland found the rate of ischemic stroke was 8 percent higher during the first two days after a daylight saving time transition, and a report in New York found hospital admission rates for atrial fibrillation, a common type of irregular heartbeat, also rose the days following the springtime change. 

Dr. Fred Davis, Associate Chair of Emergency Medicine at Northwell Health on Long Island, New York, discussed the report with Fox News and said, “Sleep is important to our health and some studies around daylight saving time have highlighted this.” The studies show increased numbers of heart attacks and strokes as we “spring forward,” the emergency medicine physician told Fox News, about another danger associated with the time change. “We have seen increased motor vehicle accidents during these time changes, which can be due to alterations in one’s circadian rhythm that can lead to impaired focus and judgment,” Davis told Fox News. 


Lloyd-Jones, who is also a professor of preventive medicine, medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago also, said in the American Heart Association report, “If you are already at risk for cardiovascular disease, the time change could be even more risky. It’s important to work on improving your health risk factors all year long, and there are some specific steps you can take to prepare for the impact of ‘springing forward’ each spring.” 

Couple enjoying a healthy lunch together outdoors.

Couple enjoying a healthy lunch together outdoors.

This year daylight saving time is Sunday, March 13th, and experts at the American Heart Association offered these tips to prepare for the time change transition:

  • Start getting as much light as possible each day now. This can help adjust your body rhythm for the upcoming change.
  • Start winding down a little earlier in the evenings ahead. While you can never make up lost sleep, going into the time change well rested can help.
  • Don’t compensate with extra caffeine. It may feel like an extra coffee or two can help you through the mid-day slump, but too much caffeine is not heart healthy.
  • Don’t take a nap. Most people don’t get enough sleep at any time; adding a cat nap to your afternoon can make it even harder to sleep well that night.


Lloyd Jones also said in the report that the best way to prepare for the daylight saving time change is to make gradual improvements to your lifestyle throughout the year including: eating smart, getting exercise, monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure, and developing healthy sleep habits. “These healthy lifestyle behaviors won’t only soften the annual biological clock shock, they are proven ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, helping you live a longer, healthier life,” Lloyd-Jones said in the report. 

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