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Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

The Dangers of Daylight-Saving Time

By March 2, 2014

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I know the headline of this blog--DANGERS--may sound a bit extreme. Daylight Saving time, when clocks are set ahead one hour at 2 a.m. local standard time (this year it's Sunday, March 9th) may be inconvenient, and nobody I've talked to yet is looking forward to losing that precious hour of sleep--at least not without a corresponding hour of partying, goofing off, or at least television-watching to take in trade. A hassle, yes, but 'dangerous'?

Actually, sleep experts and the research they cite does indeed point to certain dangers. On average, it's estimated that people go to work or school on the first Monday of Daylight Saving after sleeping 40 fewer minutes than normal. And recent studies have found there's a higher risk of heart attacks, traffic accidents and workplace injuries on the first Monday of Daylight Saving. It's hard to find any aspect of health untouched by sleep, says Ronald D. Chervin, M.D., a professor of neurology at the University of Michigan and director of U-M's Sleep Disorders Center, in a recent press release. The brain of a person who does not get enough sleep--in quality and in quantity--is unable to operate efficiently. Health, emotions, memory and more are affected. It's enough to make you want to go to bed early, isn't it?

"Being prepared is important, especially if you need to be alert that day for any reason, particularly driving a car. Even one hour of sleep loss can affect some people," says Chervin.

"Many people already are chronically sleep-deprived, and Daylight Saving Time can make them even more tired for a few days," said Dr. Nidhi Undevia, medical director of the Sleep Program at Loyola University Health System. If this sounds like you, now's the time to do something.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to safeguard your sleep, and some of them are pretty simple. Here are some tips from Chervin, Undevia and me:

  • In the next few days, start going to sleep 10 to 15 minutes earlier, and getting up 10 to 15 minutes earlier as well.

  • Don't nap on Saturday before the time change. (I normally recommend power naps as a way to catch up on missed sleep, but on Saturday, it may make it too difficult to go to sleep earlier.)

  • Try to get some morning sun on your face, as early as possible. This can help reset your body's natural 'clock'. Taking a morning walk is a great way to start your day because it can get you moving and out in the sun. If the weather doesn't permit this, or if you just don't have the time for even a 15-minute walk, I suggest you sit on your porch or in front of your sunniest window with a cup of tea (peppermint can get you going in the morning naturally!) and mentally prepare for your day.

If you're getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep at night, there's a good chance that stress is involved. For some people, stress keeps them from sleeping as well or as long as they'd like. For others, the busy schedules that don't allow enough time for sleep are the same busy schedules that bring excess stress. The following sleep resources can help you to get a better night's sleep now and during the rest of the year.

Sleep Resources:

What are your biggest sleep challenges? Best sleep tips? Share them in the comments section. And if this post was helpful for you, please share it with your sleep-deprived friends and family!

Source: Ohlmann KK, O'Sullivan MI. The costs of short sleep. AAOHN Journal, September 2009.

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March 14, 2010 at 8:19 pm
(1) markmarks says:

A recent survey said most Americans canít stand Daylight Savings Time at all!! Apparently because most of us simply donít like getting out of bed an hour early! I think itís fascinating how much our opinions are based on our comfort. I mean it looks like DST started as a way to save millions of dollars during WW2 and it still saves us millions each yearÖHey the problem is we never feel any personal gain so weíd rather just stay in bed. I learned some things I didnít know here.

March 15, 2010 at 5:58 am
(2) Jeannie says:

Oh pleaseÖitís not that big of a deal. The clocks are set ahead an hour each Spring. They change them at 2AM on a Sunday morning. Set your clock ahead before you go to bed (obviously). Most people can sleep a little longer on Sunday, I realize not everyone. Those that canít should go to bed a little earlier Saturday evening, if they believe this will be a problem. Go to bed at your usual time on Sunday, so if your usually go at 11PM, keep it the same, you body will be feeling like itís only 10PM, you should wake up Monday, well rested and adjusted to this 60 minute change. If you have a family, you should enjoy the extra hours of daylight for running to after school activities, and perhaps catching a dinner out while itís not dark out. Most of us a little more productive before sun-set, we feel like the day is not over. Iím an RN. Life is all about stress and adaptation. Donít make this a bigger deal than it is. Like most things, this has some positives and negatives. Enjoy the positive aspects and manage the negative ones. Itís only a 60 minute change twice a year. With all of the real problems out there, this is not one of them.

March 15, 2010 at 6:10 am
(3) Gail says:

Getting up earlier would not be such a big deal except when you get up at 4:00 am normally to drive to work before the traffic. To get up an hour earlier really cuts into your day until your body adjusts to the time change, I feel like I am in a time warp right now. I find that a comfortable pillow that allows your neck to stay level with your shoulders adds to my sleeping comfort. I had one that caused me to sleep with my neck at an unusual angle, that was painful.

March 15, 2010 at 1:56 pm
(4) Nick says:

DST, what is that!? I spent 15 years at sea, sailing all over the world, and you had to adjust the time every 2-3 days when going East or West, ahead or backwards; also, when you fly to Europe/Asia, you have to adjust your personnal clock by 8-12 hours, and I have not heard of anybody dying because of that????? Give me a break!!! Strees??? We (seaman) used to have the best medicine for that…. a good nite of drinking and good sex!!!!
So relax, get drunk and get laid!

March 17, 2010 at 2:10 am
(5) Natasha says:

I just moved to a state that is 2 hours ahead of what I am use to, I had a hard time adjusting to the time difference, Then 4 days later DST came up and it made my sleep worse. Every day I try to force myself to sleep, but no luck. I made sure that I don’t have a T.V in my room and turn my computer off early, I have run out of things to do. Does anyone have any suggestions? Oh yeah I have never understood why we need this time change. If DST saves so much money then why not keep like this all the time?

March 17, 2010 at 3:33 am
(6) stress says:

Hi everyone, Elizabeth here.

It’s been interesting reading everyone’s comments–thanks for sharing your thoughts! I think it’s been healthy for people to vent their frustrations, share their thoughts and solutions, and get it all out.

For those who don’t quite understand why we do Daylight Saving Time (don’t worry–you’re not alone!) here’s a nice summary from my colleague, Matt Rosenberg: http://geography.about.com/cs/daylightsavings/a/dst.htm

Also, just to clarify, DST doesn’t present extreme danger, I just wanted people to be aware that a) there are some risks involved with not getting enough sleep, and sometimes one hour can make the difference between almost getting enough, and operating from a state of sleep deprivation, and b) there are things that can be done to maximize sleep potential, even during the first few days.

For Natasha (and others who are having trouble going to sleep earlier), if your sleep difficulties aren’t stress related (and it sounds like they may not be), there are some other things you can try. Be sure you expose yourself to morning light as early in the day as you can–this can help set your body’s circadian clock, stabilize your hormones and help you sleep. Also, getting exercise during the day can help. Another potential culprit: are you consuming caffeine during the day? Try to limit caffeine intake to the morning hours (if at all), as it stays in your system for a long time and can affect sleep as well.

Good luck, and I hope everyone’s getting enough sleep now!

March 17, 2010 at 11:23 am
(7) Liz says:

All I know is that the time change would always drive the dog nuts. Either she’s coming in to wake me up because she has to go or I’m having to drag her outside because she’s not awake yet. But boy does an hour time change really throw off a baby’s schedule! He’s been on a pretty steady schedule for a while now and the time change has totally messed everything up. But atleast he’s messed up with the other bay at day care, so I guess it’s not too bad. He’ll probably get back on schedule in time for “Fall Back” and then be all messed up again.

March 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm
(8) Randall Kovar says:

When Congress extended daylight saving time in 2005 to go into effect in 2007, Congress should have used a bit more restraint in terms how far in March daylight saving time should be extended to. D.S.T should started no earlier than the next-to-last sunday in march.I will lobby congress to make this change.My request is rather reasonable.

March 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm
(9) Cali says:

Go to bed an hour early simple as that..I don’t know who comes up with this stuff but they have way too much time on their hands!!

March 10, 2014 at 6:37 am
(10) CC says:

Why not just get rid of the time change altogether? It serves no useful purpose, inconveniences millions, and is potentiallydangerous (increased incidence of both heart attacks and traffic accidents in the week following the change). There’s no reason to keep it – so let’s get rid of it.

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