The Elderly and Daylight Savings

Earlier this month the country “sprung forward” with its clock jumping ahead an hour.  For most people the impact of this is minimal but for those caring for children or elderly, it can be rough.  According to an article in Aging Care by Anne-Marie Botek, this time shift can really impact the elderly in a variety of ways.

Given the fact that as we age we are more likely to have difficulties sleeping, the daylight saving time shift can have a huge impact on the elderly.  With lack of sleep, even day-to-day activities can become burdensome, so any kind of sleep disturbances are really problematic.  This sentiment has been echoed by Senior Vice President of Quality and Clinical Operations at BrightStar Care, Sharon Roth-Maguire, M.S., R.N who said:

“Sleep fragmentation is already typical among older adults—particularly those who have chronic health conditions. Even small changes in sleep patterns can have significant consequences for senior health.”

For the elderly therefore, this change in time can be brutal.  Studies have also found that there is a higher likelihood of having a heart attack with an escalation of around five percent in the days after the time change according to a study from Sweden’s Karolinska Instituet.

As a result of sleep disturbances, there is more chance of car crashes with a recorded additional 17 percent than normal.

in addition, a 2016 study found an 8 percent hike in the amount of strokes that occur in the two days that follow daylight savings time.  This impacted cancer victims 25% more and 20% more elderly as well.  According to the author of the study, Turku University’s Dr. Jori Ruuskanen:

“Stroke risk is highest in the morning hours. Previous studies have also shown that the disruption of the circadian clock due to other reasons (e.g. due to rotating shift work) and sleep fragmentation are associated with an increased risk of stroke. However, we did not know whether stroke risk is affected by DST transitions. What is common in these situations is the disturbed sleep cycle, while the immediate mechanisms for the increased risk are unknown at the moment.”

So be more gentle with your elderly friends and family.  Try to get them to stay in bed a little longer in the morning if possible, or relax a bit early at night before bedtime.  And keep a keener eye on them for the first few weeks following daylight savings time.