Clock laying on pile of fall leaves

How the Fall Time Change Impacts Heart Health (And 5 Ways to Combat the Effects)

cardiogram Heart Health

It’s been debated whether or not bi-annual time changes impact our health.And now, multiple studies have shown that losing one hour when “springing forward” increases risk of mental and cardiovascular complications1 including depression, heart attacks, and stroke. But is “falling back” just as harmful? 
man yawning, hand over mouth
Your Body Relies on Routine

There isn’t significant evidence that the autumn time change is as detrimental for our health and our hearts as the time change in the spring. This makes sense as in the fall we gain an hour of sleep while in the spring, we lose one. (And that loss of sleep can lead to sleep deprivation which is very hard on the heart.) 

However, even with the extra hour of sleep come November’s time change, our bodies still rely on a consistent routine to function optimally. Any change to that routine can create issues such as: 

  • Disruption of hormone production 
  • Triggering stress 
  • Causing irritability 
  • Impacting sleep 
  • Impacting metabolism 
    Sleep Cycles Graphic
    Any Time Change Disrupts Circadian Rhythm 

    Because light is what regulates our circadian rhythm, when the timing of our light exposure is drastically shifted (regardless of the amount of sleep that results from it), our circadian rhythm becomes disrupted. This in itself increases cardiovascular risk factors, including: 

    • Myocardial infarction 
    • Arrhythmias 
    • Stroke2 

    And those who already have known cardiovascular diseases, or who have a higher risk level, are at an even greater odds of time changes creating complications. 

    Women standing in front of window with sunlight coming in
    Resetting Your Circadian Rhythm During Time Change 
    Even with the health risks associated with the (seemingly outdated) time changes, the majority of states still observe them in the United States, with the current exceptions of Arizona and Hawaii. Until additional states follow, here’s what you can do when the clocks change: 

    Keep your usual nightly routine

    As previously mentioned, sticking to nightly routines are important for getting consistently good sleep (and therefore for your heart health). So, once the time changes, stick to your normal routine; business as usual. 

    No caffeine after 2pm

    This is always the case for helping you go to sleep on time and to allow your heart rate to lower throughout the night. If you need extra help with this, enroll in this habit in your Cardiogram app. 

    Expose your eyes to natural light

    This is a great way to naturally reset your circadian rhythm. Exposure to natural light (without the interference of sunglasses) especially early in the morning for sunrise, and later in the evening with sunset, will help to gently reestablishing your internal clock. If going outside isn’t an option, looking out the window is a great alternative. 

    Avoid blue light 2 hours before bed

    On the other hand, blue light from electronic devices (phones, computers, etc.) can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Being sure to limit screen exposure up to 2 hours before bed, especially in the first days of the time change, will help to make sure the natural light exposure you got throughout the day isn’t cancelled out. You can enroll in this habit for accountability on Cardiogram also. 

    Focus on reducing stress

    Because these darker nights can invite a little more gloom than usual, be sure to focus on your mental health. You can do this through meditation, yoga, mindfulness or any other stress-reducing techniques. Plus, lower stress levels and a more relaxed mind allow you go to fall asleep more readily. Learn about the impact stress has on your heart. 
    We hope you find these tips useful (and that you actually enjoy the extra hour of sleep). Wishing you a healthy and happy heart! 


    Cardiogram app shown on phone and smart watch


    Cardiogram app shown on phone and smart watch