As you should already know by now, we sprang forward yesterday and are now on Daylight Saving Time or DST. It is officially an hour later than it was this time a week ago. Though I am not a huge fan of moving our time clocks forward and back every year, I guess we do have to try and conform or otherwise we’d never know what time dinner was supposed to be eaten! Seriously though, resetting our external clocks doesn’t do a whole lot for our own internal clocks. Scientific studies regarding this are something of a mixed bag, but it is generally accepted that springing forward has more of a negative effect and is harder to adapt to, than falling back does and since you and I, like many other Americans, are probably already sleep deprived, this can lead to some significant consequences to our overall health and safety. So unless you were disciplined enough to go to bed earlier on Saturday evening, this means that you lost that 1 hour of sleep on Sunday morning. Though even if you did have enough discipline to go to bed that hour early, it doesn’t always mean you get to sleep any faster. Either way, you’re not really likely to feel much of a difference until a little later today.
The reason? We all have a circadian rhythm, basically a 24 hour clock running in the background of our brains, that cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. This rhythm is generally tied to lightness and darkness and is why it tends to follow the same cycle as day and night. When it’s dark, our eyes send a signal to our brain that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain then sends a signal to the body to release hormones that help us to feel tired. Your own personal rhythm may be different than others depending on whether you’re a night owl or early riser and can change as you get older, but if you’re chronically sleep deprived, you’ll notice larger swings between feeling alert and feeling tired. Being tired can lead to mood alteration and depression, as well as increased irritability. This can cause you to lose focus during your workday and perhaps lead to an accident, but there are other health concerns that have been associated with the DST change.
Again, while the science and collected data can be viewed in several different ways, research suggests that some workplace accidents show an increase in the days following DST. Driving data collected over a ten year period showed a 6% increase in the number of auto crashes immediately following the leap forward. Researchers in Finland found that one form of stroke, caused by a clot blocking blood flow to the brain, was 8 percent higher directly after a DST transition. Cancer patients and those over 65 appeared to be at about a 20% higher risk of stroke and a study published in the journal Open Heart reported a higher short-term risk of heart attack in the few days after DST. It’s important to note that these are associations only and not a cause and effect relationship. But since our circadian rhythm controls numerous bodily functions; such as metabolic, physiologic as well as behavioral changes, it becomes easy to see that a link probably does exist here.
There were a few other odd associations that may or may not directly affect our health and safety, but researchers found that on “Sleepy Monday” judges handed down 5% stiffer sentences than on any other Monday before or after DST. And while they are unsure about the exact correlation, they also report that there is an increase of about 3% in the visiting of entertainment websites during working hours, otherwise known as cyber-loafing. There was also an almost 1% increase in credit card spending noted on the Monday following DST as well as an increased number of missed appointments. All in all, it makes one wonder why we wouldn’t stop the practice altogether. Still, the following are things we can do to help avoid the risks.
I have read that Kansas law makers are considering ending the switch to DST altogether and it’s hard to say what will actually happen with that, but while we do currently have to change our clocks and routines twice yearly I do hope you can avoid the one other odd factoid I dug up in writing this email. I found you are 25% more likely to say, read in social media, or hear being said, “I’m tired” on this day!
Dir. of Facilities Services