Combatting DST: 7 Tips for First Responders

Did you know the week following daylight savings results in increased heart attacks, suicides and strokes?

It turns out daylight savings isn’t saving us anything at all. 

A nonprofit medical society,  The American College of Cardiology disclosed data from the largest study of its kind in the U.S. revealing a “25 percent jump in the number of heart attacks occurring the Monday after we “spring forward” compared to other Mondays during the year – a trend that remained even after accounting for seasonal variations in these events. But the study showed the opposite effect is also true. Researchers found a 21 percent drop in the number of heart attacks on the Tuesday after returning to standard time in the fall when we gain an hour back.”

This statistic suggests the importance of a stable circadian rhythm, and the sensitivity of it when destabilized.

The conversation on whether daylight savings is “needed” is up for debate. The concept of daylight savings emerged during the WWI era, to save energy. The question is, do we still need this shift? dls

There are other studies that show daylight savings, specifically spring forward, causes other negative health issues. The consequences of the loss of 1 hour of sleep includes heightened risks for stroke and suicide. One study confirms that “male suicide rates rise in the weeks following the commencement of daylight savings.”

Firefighters are already at risk for certain health issues such as heart attack, and seeing that DST probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it is especially important to prioritize rest and good sleep habits during spring forward.

How do we protect ourselves from the negative effects of this schedule change?

  • Skip the Shades in the AM
    • Exposure to sunlight through special ganglionic cells in your eyes help reset the circadian rhythm. All that is needed is 10-15 nosunglassesminutes of sunlight without wearing sunglasses in the morning.
  • Go to Sleep 1 Hour Earlier
    • Do this for 1 full week, or as needed until your body adjusts to the time difference.
  • Pre-plan Extra Naps  
    • Prioritize 20 minute naps. If your schedule permits, try napping for a full 90 minutes (this is one full sleep cycle, and the completion of this prevents the groggy feeling after waking).
  • Eat Right to Sleep Better
    • Avoid stimulants and sugary foods 3-6 hours before bedtime. To promote sleep, add foods with naturally occurring melatonin and magnesium to your diet in the evening. Examples include: tart cherry juice for melatonin, or almondsalmonds and leafy greens for magnesium.
  • Commit to Sleep Hygiene
    • You may have heard avoiding screens at night supports sleep. Science backs this idea, and if you want more restorative sleep- turn off the social media, computer and I-Pad screens at least 60 minutes before you lay down. If your routine is centered around reading, you don’t need to give up that practice, just read a real book.
  • Exercise in the AM (Bonus: Do It Outside)

Work out in the morning to kickstart’s your body’s diurnal  rhythms, which positively affects brain chemistry, mood and even testosterone levels.

danscrew.workingout Bonus:  Exercise outside. By ensuring you have good sun exposure direct to the skin, you’ll receive the Vitamin D  needed for the skin to synthesize into serotonin, which then converts into melatonin- giving you extra great sleep!

  • Regularly Use a Sleep Recovery Practice
    • This guided relaxation practice is the ultimate restoration for first responders. A 45 minute practice has been shown to be the equivalent of 3 hours of sleep. This is great for having more energy, combatting insomnia and helps you to return to sleep  after a call.  Email me for your free, downloadable Sleep Recovery Practice  firstrespondersleeprecovery@gmail.com .

Committing to these simple practices can alter your life expectancy,  improve your quality of life, give you more energy and improve your mood so that you can live your fullest off the job, and perform your best on the job.