Only around 10% of people are really affected by daylight saving. However, we loudly complain about it every year. Many Americans consider the annual switch to daylight saving time a terrible idea. Every year, more and more citizens complain that sleep loss from time changes severely impacts their life.
When the clocks get moved, people usually report being very sleepy and worried that sleepiness may affect their work. Some are afraid of getting into motor vehicle accidents due to lack of sleep, while other report going to the dreamland at inappropriate moments, such as during a meeting. Springing forward can actually do more damage than causing you to lose an hour of sleep. However, there are also things you can do to make the transition less difficult.
How Daylight Saving Time Impacts Our Sleep
When we set our clock one hour ahead when DST begins, do we also set back our health? David J. Earnest, Ph.D., a professor at the College of Medicine in Texas says that the immediate impact of the first day of DST is getting an hour less of sleep. In theory, the one-hour time change shouldn’t affect our internal clock a lot, and we should be able to adapt after two to three days. However, more and more people report experiencing prolonged sleep disturbances during DST. It can happen for various reasons.
In order to understand how our sleep can be affected by daylight saving time, we should understand how our circadian rhythm works. Our body’s inner clock regulates a number of physiological functions except sleep. It is responsible for hormone release, metabolism, and managing fatigue and alertness. During the transition on or off daylight saving time, our inner click is a bit off. Since the master body clock regulates more than physiological functions, we feel like we are entirely out of sync. During the transition to DST people often feel irritable, fatigued, hungry, or even depressed.
The best thing you can do to prevent this is to make adjustments a few days before DST or immediately. It is crucial to eat and sleep according to the new time. Although this is common sense, it may be quite tricky because our body tells us to do otherwise. Adults usually don’t have problems adjusting to DST. However, the change may be problematic for teenagers and all people with sensitive circadian rhythms. Every person functions in a unique way, and there are a lot of variations in terms how will our body respond to this sudden change.
DST Has Similar Effects as Time-Zone Switching
Transitioning on or off DST is very similar to switching time zone during travel. Shifting to an earlier time is like flying eastward, and our body adapts to it harder. Shifting to an hour later is similar to flying westward, and it’s much easier for our bodies to adjust. Everyone feels better when they have an extra hour of sleep.
How Springing Forward Affects Our Health
DST doesn’t jeopardize our health or affect it negatively in a severe manner. However, since it seems like we are forcefully pulled from our beds an hour earlier, it severely affects our mood. Apart from mood changes, disruption of circadian rhythms and sleep loss can lead to poor cognitive functioning. Due to poor cognitive functioning, we are more prone to car accidents, work injuries and similar.
Why Do We Still Have DST?
Don’t you think it’s nice to leave work at 5 pm and still have several hours of daylight to enjoy? DST cannot be the standard all year long, because, during winter, we would get up and go to work when it’s still dark. Going to work during dark may have safety implications. On the other side, extra daylight in the evening may lead to less crime.
The idea of daylight saving time emerged during war years and was established by law in 1918. It was repealed in 1919 and re-established during World War II from 1942 to 1945. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act provided standardization for the beginning and ending dates of DST in the US. The law allowed some local exceptions. Due to those exceptions, two states, Hawaii and Arizona, don’t recognize daylight saving time. Some countries such as California consider doing the same.
The fact that DST begins on a Sunday means that people have a full day to adjust to the new time before returning to work or school on Monday. Dr. Earnest advises us to take advantage of that. Another tip is to gradually shift your time and adjust to the new time by getting up half an hour earlier that you are used to. Doing this two days before DST should be sufficient.
Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic