The Daylight Saving Time Health Effects You Might Not Be Expecting, According to a Cardiology Specialist (Exclusive)

Dr. Rachana Kulkarni tells PEOPLE that "everyone" is affected by Daylight Savings Time and shared the positive and negative health effects tied to it

<p>Getty</p> Daylight Saving Time.


Daylight Saving Time.

As you prepare to spring ahead when Daylight Saving Time starts this weekend, prepare for the various health effects that could come with it as well.

On Sunday, March 10 at 2:00 a.m. local time, clocks across the United States and Canada will turn forward one hour to 3:00 a.m. local time. The biannual temporal event allows for more daylight at night between mid-March to early November.

Some love the extra sunlight in their day, but for those who like to catch their full eight hours of shuteye (or parents who want their kids to stay in bed longer), it's a less popular practice. This is because the Sunday time leap results in one less hour of sleep.

Dr. Rachana Kulkarni, regional Director of Cardiovascular Services for RWJBarnabas Health and Director of its Women's Heart Center, tells PEOPLE that "everyone" is affected by Daylight Saving Time because of circadian rhythm.

Commonly referred to as our internal body clock, a circadian rhythm is "the discipline the body goes by" that dictates multiple processes in the body. When that gets disrupted, Dr. Kulkarni says "the whole body and its basic metabolic function gets affected."

Related: Daylight Saving Time Ends Nov. 5: What It Means in Astrology and What to Know

While ackowledging the "wonderful" extra hour of light that comes with Daylight Savings, Dr. Kulkarni — who's board certified in cardiology and nuclear cardiology — says it also comes with "some health challenges," which she attributes to "the disruption of the circadian rhythm."

Since sleep is "one of life's essential aids," Dr. Kulkarni says, it's among the most essential qualities to maintain good cardiovascular health. When our circadian rhythm is disturbed, our sleep is impacted.

Fortunately, she says "the most vulnerability comes in the first week" of our body's initial response to getting one less hour of sleep.

Read on for the negative and positive health effects associated with Daylight Saving Time and the helpful ways to combat the challenges.

Disrupted sleep could result from Daylight Saving Time

<p>Getty</p> Disrupted sleep due to Daylight Saving Time.


Disrupted sleep due to Daylight Saving Time.

Because the time change causes everyone to lose one hour of sleep, a disrupted circadian rhythm can result in some difficulty adjusting to the new schedule.

The American Health Association offers several detailed tips to combat this challenge, but Dr. Kulkarni highlighted some of the standouts. She says "we need to start thinking of this and transitioning our own health habits to get better" in the days leading up to Daylight Saving Time.

One easy way to acclimate your body: "getting out and get as much natural light as possible each day" after the time change occurs. And Saturday night before the leap, "wind down a little earlier."

Related: Burger King Has a Week of Free Breakfast Foods in Honor of Daylight Saving Time

Stroke and heart attack risks could increase during Daylight Saving Time

<p>Getty</p> Heart attack and stroke risks could increase due to Daylight Saving Time.


Heart attack and stroke risks could increase due to Daylight Saving Time.

There are certain cardiovascular risks associated with Daylight Saving Time, according to Dr. Kulkarni, including an increase in risks for stroke and heart attack.

Even during typical weeks, she says, emergency rooms and cardiologists see "a significant increase" in heart attack and strokes on Mondays, though the reason is unclear; "there is lot of debate in cardiology literature as to why this happens," she says.

"Now add that to disruption of the circadian rhythm," Dr. Kulkarni says of Daylight Saving Time — and the number goes up furhter.

"There's a marked increase in heart attack and strokes" in the days following the change, she says, and that increase can last for up to a week.

Dr. Kulkarni says those who are "at risk for heart disease" and "risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history" should be attentive to their health during this time. One particular group she mentions is post-menopausal women, who are "very prone for heart and health risks because of lack of sleep and interruption of the circadian rhythm."

"We have data and research to support that one in four post menopausal women are at risk for having irregular heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation," she explains. "Sleep disturbance is very common in perimenopausal and post menopausal women and that increases their risk."

Cognitive function could be affected from Daylight Saving Time

As a result of disrupted sleep or sleep deprivation, cognitive function may be impacted. This is because our bodies need "seven to nine hours of sleep" to rest our bodies, hearts and brains, says Dr. Kulkarni.

Lack of good sleep "can lead to cognitive decline because you are unable to focus," she explains. "If your body is not rested, you are unable to focus that next day."

Depression could result from Daylight Saving Time

<p>Getty</p> Alarm clock in the snow.


Alarm clock in the snow.

"Studies have shown that lack of good sleep, which is our body's reset point for the next day, or irregular sleep, can lead to depression," says Dr. Kulkarni. "Studies have shown that younger people are more likely to face depression and obesity due to lack of sleep."

Related: All About Solar Eclipse Glasses (and Why You Should Buy Them Now)

Diabetes and obesity risks are associated with lack of sleep

Dr. Kulkarni says disrupted sleep and poor nighttime habits are correlated with weight issues linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

When we feel tired, she explains we're "less likely to exercise." She says studies have shown sleep loss can "increases the risk of visceral obesity, which increases your cardiovascular risk."

Younger people "are more likely to face depression and obesity due to lack of sleep," while older people "are more likely to have cognitive decline ... and higher cardiovascular risk."

Vitamin D intake increases from Daylight Saving Time

<p>Getty</p> Opportunity to absorb Vitamin D increases during Daylight Saving Time.


Opportunity to absorb Vitamin D increases during Daylight Saving Time.

There also many benefits associated with Daylight Saving Time, including the most obvious: More sunlight!

"If we are prudent about how to transition our body, there are so many positives that we get with more daylight," Dr. Kulkarni says.

"It allows us to get more natural light, which is good for the body... So we need to take advantage of all those positives," she continues. "Exposure to natural light is a wonderful thing to do."

Dr. Kulkarni points out the benefits of natural light. She says it "allows better health" thanks to increased Vitamin D, but also says "it's amazing" for our bodies and our psyche.

There are more opportunities for exercise resulting from Daylight Saving Time

Increased daylight and warming temperatures make physical fitness much more enticing during the hibernation-friendly winter months.

"My suggestion is to go outside and start exercising," Dr. Kulkarni says.

"We are going to now have light when we go out [before work] and when we come home," she explains. "So take advantage of the extra light that we have."

Dr. Kulkarni suggests going outside for a walk or a run — whatever form of activity will "get yourself some fresh air." She says these are all great benefits to "turn this challenge" of Daylight Saving Time "into opportunity."

Better hygiene opportunities increase from Daylight Saving Time

<p>Getty</p> Exercise outside more during Daylight Saving Time.


Exercise outside more during Daylight Saving Time.

Despite the inevitable circadian rhythm disruption which affects sleep, there are ways to get your health back on track during Daylight Saving Time.

"We should know that these are the challenges and we should prep ourselves in a better way," Dr. Kulkarni says. "Get our bodies adjusted, start sleeping a little early, avoid caffeine, get into a good health hygiene — so then, you are going to reap benefits of all the positives of Daylight Saving Time."

"Fear risks, mitigate [them], get into good sleep hygiene, and then it's all good," Dr. Kulkarni continues. "It's up to us. I always say knowledge is power!"

Maintaining good sleep hygiene and cutting back on screen time at night is also "super important to incorporate those good health habits," adds Dr. Kulkarni. "Avoid devices in the bedroom and shut all the devices down an hour before your bedtime to reduce the exposure to blue light."

Dr. Kulkarni's "appeal to all people" during Daylight Saving Time: "Limit use of technology. This is a good time to get out!"

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