Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour from standard time during the summer months and back again in the fall to make better use of the natural daylight. Turning the clocks back/forward dates back to Germany during World War I.In the U.S., daylight savings time was enacted in 1918 as a way to help save on coal. It became federal law in 1966 with the passage of the Uniform Time Act. This year, daylight savings time began on March 8, 2020 at 2 a.m. and will end on Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 2 a.m. when we “fall back” or set our clocks back one hour.
What are the Side Effects of Daylight Saving Time?
In the spring, we “spring forward” and move the clock ahead one hour, causing us to lose an hour of sleep. In the fall, however, we “fall back” and gain an hour of sleep. This means in the spring, we get more daylight in the evening, and in the fall, we enjoy brighter sunlight in the morning. Moving the clock by an hour twice a year can have an impact on our health, as it changes our body's principal time cue (or light) for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle. This leads to our internal clock becoming out of sync. Each person can have a different reaction to the time change as well as how long the adjustment period can last.
Sleep deprivation caused by the time change can impact the amount of sleep that we get, which can ultimately impact our hormone levels, immune system and even our heart. Below are some of the well-known side effects of the daylight saving time change:
Mood: Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep cycles can throw off your hormonal balance, causing depressive feelings, anxiety, increased irritability and mental exhaustion. Our anxious mood could also impact our ability to settle down for sleep, which could snowball into more sleep deprivation.
Appetite: The time change can disrupt a person's appetite and even cause someone to overeat. Two hormones that affect how we eat, ghrelin and leptin, are associated with sleep. If you are sleep deprived, the hormones can send mixed signals to the body, causing changes in appetite, like an increase in cravings and potential overeating.
Cognitive: Daylight saving time could negatively impact a person's memory, performance and concentration skills. A study by the Journal of Applied Psychology found that the Monday after switching to DST saw an increase in workplace injuries and a higher percentage of severe injuries on that day. Another study also found that there is an increase in traffic accidents the Monday after the time change due to increased tiredness.
Heart Attacks and Strokes: A British Medical Journal study found that the risk of a heart attack grew 24% the Monday after daylight saving time in the spring, but in contrast, in the fall, when we get an extra hour of sleep, heart attack risk fell 21%. Daylight saving time could also be associated with an 8% increase in ischemic strokes, which is caused by a clot blocking blood flow to the brain.
Sleep Deprivation in the Workplace
Sleep deprivation from daylight saving time changes can impact a worker's productivity for up to a week after we spring forward or fall back. Lack of sleep causes fatigue, which in combination with demanding physical or mental work can lead to costly workplace incidents. Fatigue can impair an employee's ability to make clear decisions, reduces concentration and could even cause muscle pain and drowsiness. Understanding the impact the time changes can have on employees is one component of having a robust workplace safety program.
Tips for Businesses to Battle Sleep Deprivation after a Time Change
Businesses should beware of “business as usual” approaches to work during the first week after springing forward. Employers should consider:
Adjusting work processes to account for darker mornings
Provide additional illumination for those performing tasks both outside and inside to mitigate the additional hazards inherent in under-lit areas
Rescheduling hazardous work for later in the week
Modify start times to allow those in hazardous positions to start later on the first few days after the time change and gradually returning to normal schedules
Implement extra safety precautions for those first few days till attention levels readjust
What Can You do to Prevent the Side Effects of Daylight Saving Time?
There are many adjustments to your daily routine that can help prevent the side effects of daylight saving time and avoid potential health risks, including:
Light exposure: Try to get light exposure, specifically sunlight, first thing in the morning. This is especially important during the first few days after the time change. Open up the curtains and let the sunshine into the room. Seeing the light first thing after waking up can help to reset your body's internal clock.
Early adjustments: A few days before the time change, adjust your bedtime by going to bed earlier and waking up earlier than usual. This can help your body prepare for losing and gaining the hour of sleep.
Bedtime schedule: If you can't adjust your bedtime as recommended above, try to keep your daily bedtime and wakeup schedule during the time change weekend. A consistent sleep schedule will help your body adjust quicker to the time change.
Reduce caffeine intake: Large amounts of caffeine can add to sleep deprivation. A few days before and after the time change, limit the amount of caffeine that you have after lunch. Also, do not over-caffeinate yourself after the time change to help you stay awake, as this will impact your sleep.
Don't take a nap: Napping during the daytime, especially after the time change, will make it harder to fall asleep at night.
Avoid driving: Experts recommend not driving, if you are sleep deprived from the time change.
Calming bedtime rituals: There are bedtime calming rituals that can help you fall asleep, including avoiding electronic devices, taking a hot bath, eliminating caffeine in the evening, working out earlier in the day, turning off the TV, or wearing earplugs or an eye mask.
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