Your timezone has a bigger impact on your sleep patterns than you realize, according to a new study published by the Journal of Health Economics. Apparently timezones can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle if the clock doesn't match up with what the sun's actually doing in the sky.
People who live closer to the eastern border of their timezone experience earlier sunsets than those living in the westernmost areas. For example, Panama City, Florida and Pecos, Texas are at two geographical extremes of the same timezone. Panama City is in the extreme eastern side of the Central timezone while Pecos is on the extreme western side. This week, the sun will set at 7:12 PM in Panama City and at 8:25 PM in Pecos.
Those types of discrepancies mean that people who live on the western side of a given timezone experience more natural light in the evenings. And all that extra light can seriously mess with your ability to get a good night's rest. In fact, people living in the western sections of their timezone get an average of 115 fewer hours of sleep per year than their neighbors to the east.
"Individuals on the late sunset side of a timezone boundary are more likely to be sleep deprived, more likely to sleep less than 6 hours, and less likely to sleep at least 8 hours," the authors write.
All that lost sleep also means people in the western end of their timezones are more at risk of a variety of health conditions. Obesity, diabetes and heart attacks are all more common among folks on the western edge of their timezone. And your health isn't the only thing taking a hit from those later sunsets—so is your wallet.
"Wages tend to be 3 percent lower on the late sunset side of the timezone border, suggesting negative effects on economic productivity," said the researchers.
Though that's not to say it's all bad for people in the west. That extra hour of daylight in the evening could mean more time for leisure activities and a longer, more enjoyable day. So it's up to you to choose between better sleep and longer daylight hours.