Daylight saving time is about to start,
and an interesting thing that you might not realize is how such a small
shift in our time can have a large impact on our body clock and our
health. These negative impacts of daylight saving time even cost us real
money in lost productivity.
DST starts at 2 a.m. (the clock gets turned forward to 3 a.m.) on the
second Sunday in March and ends at 2 a.m. (the clock gets turned back
to 1 a.m.) on the first Sunday of November. That means our clocks spring
forward an hour this Sunday, March 9. This is the "bad" time change,
since it means we lose an hour of sleep over night.
It was enacted during World War I to decrease energy use. Benjamin
Franklin first advocated for the practice in 1784 because he noticed
that people used candles at night and slept past dawn in the mornings.
By shifting time by an hour during the summer, they would burn fewer
candles and not sleep through the morning sunlight.
The debate still rages
as to whether this time-switch does save energy, but along the way
we've seen signs that it has negative effects on our health and the
Surprising Health Impacts
Transitions associated with the start and end of DST disturb sleep
patterns and make people restless at night, which results in sleepiness
the next day. This is true even during a "fall back" period, since when
we fall back, we might have trouble adjusting to going to sleep "later"
after the time change.
One pretty obvious study in Neuroscience Letters
found that when people were transitioning their schedules after
"springing forward," the quality of their sleep decreased and they slept
an average of an hour less per night.
The resulting sleepiness leads to a loss of productivity and an
increase in "cyberloafing," in which people muck around more on the
computer instead of working. That finding was from a 2012 report in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
During the first week of DST (in the late winter) there's a spike in heart attacks, according to a study in the American Journal of Cardiology
(and other previous studies). That's because losing an hour of sleep
increases stress and provides less time to recover overnight. The
opposite is true when we gain an extra hour of sleep. The end of
daylight saving time causes a decrease in heart attacks.
Deadly car crashes decrease during DST (the spring, summer, and
fall), because it's more likely to be light out when there are more
people on the road, for example going to and returning from work or
But that's not likely true on the Monday after DST starts. Groggy
people driving in the dark are more prone to accidents. Getting some
extra sun in the morning, going to sleep earlier, or sleeping in
slightly could help.
Research has found that having DST all year round could decrease
deaths from traffic accidents even more—saving up to 366 lives,
according to a 2004 study in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.
Accidents at work happen more often and are more severe after springing forward, according to a study of miners published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2009.
The impacts of DST are likely related to our body's internal circadian
rhythm, the still-slightly-mysterious molecular cycles that regulate
when we feel awake and when we feel sleepy, as well as our hunger and
hormone production schedules.
Light dictates how much melatonin our bodies produce. When it's
bright out, we make less. When it's dark, our body ramps up synthesis of
this sleep-inducing substance. Just like how jet lag makes you feel all
out of whack, daylight saving time is similar to scooting one time zone
over for a few months.
The problems with DST are the worst in the spring, when we've all
just lost one hour of sleep. The sun rises later, making it more
difficult to wake in the morning. This is because we reset our natural
clocks using the light. When out of nowhere (at least to our bodies)
these cues change, it causes major confusion.
Like anytime you lose sleep, springing forward causes decreases in
performance, concentration, and memory common to sleep-deprived
individuals, as well as fatigue and daytime sleepiness.
Night owls are more bothered by the time changes than morning people.
For some, it can take up to three weeks to recover from the sleep
schedule changes, according to a 2009 study in the journal Sleep Medicine. For others, it may only take a day to adjust to this new schedule.
That's Not All
All of these impacts have economic costs too. An index from Chmura Economics & Analytics,
released in 2013, suggests that the cost could be up to $434 million in
the U.S. alone. That's an estimated total of all of the health effects
and lost productivity mentioned above.
Other calculations suggest this cost could be up to $2 billion—just
from the 10 minutes twice a year that it takes for every person in the
U.S. to change their clocks. (If you calculate 10 minutes per household
instead of per person this "opportunity cost" is only $1 billion.)
I feel like it's worse for my (mental) well-being when it gets dark earlier because if I stay just an hour late (6P) at work it's already dark and although, rationally, I know the day isn't over.. it still makes me feel like I have NO time to get everything done... and I tend to "give up" and procrastinate more, which leads to more stress, fat, cholesterol, insulin, cancer and all of that (semi-reach)
When I was kid I liked when it got dark early.. now I'm grown and hate it
I'm not concerned about the sleep part.. I'm going to see if I notice any changes
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