Emergency rooms will be a little emptier next Monday because the end of daylight savings time appears to reduce the chances of getting a heart attack. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a small but consistent dip in the number of heart attacks on the Monday after “Fall back,” probably due to people getting an extra hour of shut-eye.
The Swedish researchers found the pattern after going through 20 years of data, from 1987 to 2006. They compared the days directly following the time shifts with the same day two weeks before and two weeks after, and found a 5 percent decrease in heart attacks on the Monday following the fall time shift. But the flip side of “Fall back” is “Spring forward,” where heart attacks increase in the few days after the time shift. The first Monday and Wednesday after “Spring forward” had a 6 percent rise in heart attacks, and the first Tuesday had a 10 percent increase. (If you’re reading this in the Southern Hemisphere, take care, because the time shift for you this weekend is actually “Spring forward.”)
The researchers believe the link between the time shifts and heart attacks is sleep. They say this could also explain previous research that shows more heart attacks occur on Mondays than any other day of the week, which was attributed to stress. But maybe it’s not just dread of the upcoming work week that’s stopping people’s hearts—it’s also staying up later on Sunday night.
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Image: flickr / colourize