The older I get the more obsessed I’ve become with getting enough sleep. It’s really the single most important thing I can do to maintain my good health. Too few hours in the sack and I find myself very quickly running on empty — and susceptible to a slew of physical and emotional issues. (I’m not alone in this view, as this piece in EL explains.)
This becomes something of a challenge every spring, when we are all expected to “save” some daylight by turning our clocks ahead one hour. (The social and political history of this maneuver is quite fascinating.) It throws me off my rhythm for a several days, but for some folks it can be downright fatal.
A recent University of Colorado meta-study reported a 25-percent jump in the number of heart attacks on the Monday after we all “spring forward” compared to other Mondays during the year.
We all know that Mondays can be hard on our system: Stress levels can rise as we head back to work after a lazy weekend. Apparently, losing that hour of sleep just raises the odds that your old ticker is going to protest. “These events were much more frequent the Monday after the spring time change and then tapered off over the other days of the week,” lead researcher Amneet Sandhu, MD, said in a statement released by the university. “It may mean that people who are already vulnerable to heart disease may be at greater risk right after sudden time changes.”
It would not be helpful here to completely recount the bizarre history of geographical time alignment in the U.S. (you can read all about it here), though I will say that for a brief period in 1965, it was an hour later in St. Paul than it was in Minneapolis. I did the math: If I left my house in Minneapolis at 8:30 for the 10-minute bike ride across the river to my office in St. Paul, I’d arrive at 9:40. Not a good way to start the day, in my view. Of course, leaving the office at 5, I could coast down the big hill and be home by 4:10. A great way to end the day.
So it is, as they say, a two-edged sword. And, in fact, Sandhu and his colleagues found that there was a 21-percent drop in heart attacks on the autumn Tuesday after we turned our clocks back an hour. Which only validates my view that the more you sleep the better you’ll feel.