(NEW YORK) -- Daylight saving time finally ends this Sunday at 2 a.m. -- remember to set your clocks back one hour when you go to bed Saturday night -- and for many of Americans, that could be a downer. The day seems to fly by, and it's gets dark outside before most can start thinking about dinner.
But many doctors say the return to standard time -- and the extra hour of sleep you get in the morning -- can be healthy.
"Generally, it is always easier to stay up an hour later than to go to sleep an hour earlier, so most people have relatively little problem setting the clocks back in the fall," said Dr. Steven Feinsilver, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, in an email. "This is because our basic circadian rhythm (the 'body clock') actually seems to be programmed for a longer than 24 hour day. It runs a little slow."
"The circadian clock does not change to the social change," said chronobiology researcher Till Roenneberg of Ludwig Maximilans University in Munich, Germany. "During the winter, there is a beautiful tracking of dawn in human sleep behavior, which is completely and immediately interrupted when daylight saving time is introduced in March."
Roenneberg, the lead researcher for a study of the effects of time shifts, said that humans' biological clocks are stronger than the clocks set by Congress.
"When you change clocks to daylight saving time, you don't change anything related to sun time," Roenneberg said. "This is one of those human arrogances, that we can do whatever we want as long as we are disciplined. We forget that there is a biological clock that is as old as living organisms, a clock that cannot be fooled. The pure social change of time cannot fool the clock."
Though individuals may see their biological clocks reset, and will get an "extra hour" of sleep or rest over the weekend, researchers say that the stress caused by time changes can be bad for the body.
Researchers in Sweden published a report in 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine stating that the number of heart attacks jumps during the period immediately following time changes, and that those vulnerable to sleep deprivation should be extra careful.
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