Daylight saving time provides more vitamin D, but costs some vitamin Z

Year-round DST could provide various health benefits, a columnist argues

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by Halsey Blocher |

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It’s been nearly two weeks since most of the U.S. “sprang forward” into daylight saving time (DST), and no matter how many times we go through the biannual time changes, it always seems to take this long for everyone to fully adjust. Some people may even still need to update those pesky car and kitchen appliance clocks. You’re welcome for the reminder.

Although I fail to understand why these time changes are necessary, I can’t deny that I’m glad to be back in DST. I prefer it over standard time, and I believe that using it year-round could be beneficial, especially for those with SMA and other rare diseases.

Soaking up vitamin D

For me, the greatest draw of DST is an increase in sunlight. Yes, I know that we don’t actually get more sunlight. We just experience it at a different time of day. But that slight difference shifts the daylight hours into a time frame that better allows me to take advantage of them.

Admittedly, I’m not a morning person, but that’s not the only reason why I miss out on sunny mornings. My morning medical and hygiene routine takes two hours every day. That includes breathing treatments, showering, dressing, range-of-motion exercises, brushing my teeth, and transfers between my bed, shower/toilet chair, and wheelchair. And that’s only some of it.

Once that’s all said and done, morning has already passed me by, and it’s nearly lunchtime. If I wanted to enjoy the morning, I’d have to wake up before the sun, and that doesn’t sound enjoyable.

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But sunlight is good for my health. Its cheerful warmth improves my mental and emotional well-being, and it also has physical benefits. It’s a great source of vitamin D.

My complex care doctor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s SMA clinic has been monitoring my vitamin D levels for a few years. That’s because, like many nonambulatory SMA patients, I have a low bone density, which increases my risk of fractures or breaks.

A blood test revealed that my vitamin D levels were insufficient, so my doctor prescribed supplemental liquid vitamin D to be administered daily through my feeding tube.

This change has boosted my levels back within normal range, but my body still needs to naturally absorb vitamin D from the sun, which is easier during times of the day that don’t coincide with my care routines. Soaking up sunlight in the afternoon or evening is exactly what the doctor ordered. Sort of.

Catching some extra z’s

There’s also the matter of vitamin Z, otherwise know as sleep. Good sleep is a necessity for everyone, but switching back and forth between DST and standard time can disrupt normal sleep patterns for multiple weeks.

According to this article from the Sleep Foundation, the negative effects of this disruption can include sleep deprivation, mood disturbances, and an increase in automobile accidents.

For those with SMA and other disabilities, sleep loss can also exacerbate regular disease symptoms such as fatigue or breathing difficulties, which could lead to a decline in health and comfort. And because we burn through energy to help compensate for our muscle weakness, we need all the vitamin Z we can get.

After a series of sleepless nights, SMA News Today columnist Ari Anderson wrote a piece titled “What I Learned When Sleep, My Longtime Friend, Eluded Me.” Losing so much sleep caused him extreme exhaustion and distress, and Ari’s concerned loved ones tried everything they could think of to bring him relief until sleep returned.

Another SMA News Today columnist, Kevin Schaefer, is also a recent victim of poor sleep, in his case due to a broken BiPAP machine. Without it, Kevin experienced breathing problems and tiredness that persisted after his machine was replaced. He writes about those problems and his regular sleeping troubles in a column titled “Sleeping problems are another part of the SMA package.”

Most nights with SMA don’t result in such severe sleeping conditions, but it’s normal to have our sleep regularly interrupted. I wake up throughout the night when I need to be repositioned or have mucus cleared from my airway. I’m also awakened whenever my ventilator, feeding pump, and oximeter alarm.

Some nights I have a home care nurse who attends to these needs, but most nights my mom wakes up whenever I do to help me. That means we both lose out on some vitamin Z, even without time changes.

Daylight saving time is the way to go

With the potential for extra vitamins to help keep me healthy, year-round daylight saving time has my vote! It may seem like a little thing, but I’m convinced that just a bit more sunshine and consistent sleep would be exactly what many of us need.

How else do you think we might benefit from staying in daylight saving time? Tell me about it in the comments section.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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