Warning as clocks going forward can spark deadly emergencies – how to protect yourself

THIS weekend marks the start of British summer, as the clocks go forward on Sunday.

As exciting as it is, experts warn that a shift in time can spark an increase in deadly emergencies.

An expert has warned that heart attacks, strokes and episodes or irregular heartbeat are more likely to occur following the time change.

The bizarre phenomenon, described by the American Heart Association, is documented in research. 

Dr Girardin Jean-Louis, an expert in sleep at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Florida, said: “People are more prone to having some types of cardiovascular events because of the change in time.”

A 2015 study published in Sleep Medicine found strokes were eight per cent higher in the first two days after the clocks changed.

People over the age of 65 were 20 per cent more likely to have a stroke than during other times of year, and people with cancer were 25 per cent more likely.

Meamwhile, a 2014 study showed the summer time switch raised the risk of having a heart attack the following Monday by 24 per cent compared to other Mondays during the year.

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Younger, healthier people may adjust more quickly, Dr Jean-Louis, director of the Center on Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences, said.

But for older people, or those with medical conditions that affect their sleep, "it's a much, much harder task to try to get back to schedule”.

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Losing an hour of sleep may not seem like a big deal.

Many of us rack up several “lost” hours at the weekend by staying up late.

However, the move towards “daylight saving time” is different, experts explain.

Dr Beth Malow, director of the sleep division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said if you travel from Chicago to New York, you lose an hour, but a shift in the light cycle accompanies the change. 

When it's time to spring forward, you don't get that cue, explains the American Heart Association.

The only thing that has changed is the time – but when you wake up to your normal 6am alarm, it’s lighter outside than it would be normally. 

It’s a more sudden change than the gradual “morning’s getting lighter, evening’s getting longer” than human’s are naturally accustomed to.

This confuses the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is a 24-hour “body clock”.

It is dependent on daylight exposure, resetting every morning in response to the sun.

Our internal body clock regulates everything in the body from sleep, the immune system to liver function.

It’s also “not just one hour” that’s lost, Dr Malow said.

One study of high school students found that after the clocks changed, they lost half an hour of sleep on the following weeknights.

It totalled almost three hours of sleep loss compared to the week prior.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, effects of the time change might last for months. 

Other health effects discovered by daylight saving include more traffic accidents, a negative effect on mood and appetite. 

How to protect yourself

It’s tempting to have a lie in on Sunday, after the clocks jump forward by an hour at 1am.

Dr Malow said: "But really try to get up at your usual time and get exposed to light, because that bright light in the morning will help you wake up, and it will also help you fall asleep easier at night."

Dr Jean-Louis suggests even waking up one hour earlier.

"You could wake up one hour early and take a walk facing east so that you have exposure to the sun as it rises."

He said doing this a few days before the clocks for forward is best, so try and do this on Saturday.

Ensure you have the most restful night’s sleep possible on Sunday (and always, technically).

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Avoid caffeine late in the day, and don’t drink alcohol.

Both can impact sleep quality, which is how restful your sleep is and how often you wake during the night, regardless of sleep length.

The signs of an emergency

Heart attack

Symptoms of a heart attack can include: 

  • Chest pain 
  • Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy (abdomen) 
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy 
  • Sweating 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Feeling or being sick
  • An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack) 
  • Coughing or wheezing 

Although the chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion.

While the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain, women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.


The FAST method – which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, Time – is the easiest way to remember the most common symptoms of stroke:

F = Face drooping – if one side of a person's face is dropped or numb then ask them to smile, if it's uneven then you should seek help.

A = Arm weakness – if one arm is weak or numb then you should ask the person to raise both arms. If one arm drifts downwards then you might need to get help

S = Speech difficulty – if a person's speech is slurred then this could be a sign of a stroke

T = Time to call 999 – if a person has the signs above then you need to call 999 in the UK or 911 in the US for emergency care.

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