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Time shift linked to health risks

Published On: Mar 11 2013 03:08:06 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 10 2013 04:59:00 PM CDT

With the clocks moving forward an hour this weekend, some doctors are linking the shift to daylight saving time to health and safety risks.

Dr. Mark Lancer, a Dean physician and the director of Saint Mary's sleep center, said losing an hour of sleep can throw off some people's sleep schedule enough to pose a risk, but the majority won’t be affected.

"It's a very small difference for most people. For 99.9 percent of us, it isn't going to matter. But it's for that small percentage that it may make a difference," Lancer said.

Lancer said research indicates heart attacks increase the Sunday of the change.

"There are some people who are more susceptible than others to the change in the daylight hours," Lancer explained. "It disrupts their circadian rhythm and can sometimes have adverse health consequences as a result."

Lancer added car crashes increase the first week of daylight savings time, likely resulting from a change with everyone's internal clock.

"I believe that they are, you know, most likely, I think, mediated through the lack of sleep, causing sleep deprivation," Lancer said.

Lancer said certain older populations are more prone to these adverse effects.

"Like all disturbances to sleep, the elderly are most affected," Lancer said. "They tend to get less sleep in general and have more physical problems related to their lack of sleep."

Besides an earlier bedtime, Lancer said there are other remedies to the daylight savings time lull.

"Turn on the lights, or in the evening, before you go to bed, turn the lights down. Dim light at night and bright light in the morning helps to set your circadian rhythm, so if they can do that ahead of time then maybe it would be beneficial," Lancer suggested.

Dykman’s Time Shop owner Glenn Gardner spent his weekend reminding customers of the time change.

"I think it's not needed anymore, but you know, that's how it is," Gardner said.

Krystal and Cole Koepp were shopping for a new mattress at A1 Furniture and Bedding Saturday. They said they would gladly sacrifice an hour of sleep for more time in the sun.

"I've always kind of liked it because I like having the extra hour of light at the end of the day," Krystal said.

An online petition is calling for the end of the annual time shift. It had more than 11,700 signatures as of Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, safety officials are encouraging the start of daylight savings time as a time to do annual safety checks.

For example, they suggest replacing the batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Those without an emergency kit at home are encouraged to purchase one. And those with one should put fresh batteries in the flashlight and make sure the food, water, and first-aid kit are all in good condition.

The Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs has additional safety tips on its website.

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