Why A Spinal Cord Injury And Daylight Savings Time Are Similar

Daylight savings time will happen this weekend, and we’ll lose an hour in the early hours of Sunday morning. When we spring our clocks forward in March, many people feel the effects of this lost sleep for a few days. Our internal body clocks can get thrown off and we may be more tired or groggy from lack of sleep. In fact, it’s not uncommon for work injuries to spike on the Monday following daylight savings time as people still try to adjust to the lost hour of sleep.

Interestingly, there has also been research that shows that a spinal cord injury can have the same effect as daylight savings time on our bodies. In today’s blog, we explain why a spinal cord injury can leave your body feeling like it is consistently working through a time shift.

DST And Spinal Injuries

According to researchers at Colorado University, your body’s internal clock gets thrown out of whack in the hours and days following a spinal cord injury. Researchers say that systems that regulate your body temperature, hormone production and immune system all get disrupted following a spinal cord injury, and many of these processes can also be disrupted during daylight savings time.

“Every single cell in our body has its own molecular clock, including all the machinery required for the body to know what time it is,” said lead author Andrew Gaudet, who conducted the study as a postdoctoral researcher. “We wanted to know how spinal cord injury impacts the mediators that influence those clocks and the clocks themselves.”

For the study, researchers examined rats in the immediate aftermath of a moderate injury to the middle spinal cord. They looked at a number of factors, including body temperature, activity levels, expression of stress hormones in the bloodstream and how the genes that control the circadian clock in the spinal cord were affected.

“We found that all of these mediators of the circadian system were strongly disrupted soon after injury and slowly returned to normal measures only after a few weeks,” said Gaudet.

Stress Hormones Increase

Interestingly, researchers found that stress hormone levels in the bloodstream were up 250 percent two days after the injury. They were still elevated one week after injury, and they tended to peak during sleep rather than during the normal awake hours. Researchers also found that core body temperature remained higher, and even 30 days after the injury their temperature was peaking 2-4 hours earlier than normal. Most studied patterns returned to normal after between 14-42 days.

Normally, light is the primary factor of the circadian rhythm, but if other body processes get thrown out of whack, a spinal cord injury can leave you feeling tired during the day and awake at night.

So if the time shift throws you off this weekend, know that spinal cord injury patients oftentimes feel like this for days and weeks after their injury. It’s up to a skilled spine specialist to help with all aspects of the physical recovery, including the regulation of key bodily processes. For more information on the topic, or to talk to a specialist about your back pain, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.

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