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Daylight Saving Time; Facts and Tips

Image: Trento Mercantino dei Gaudenti

Image: Trento Mercantino dei Gaudenti

By Audree-Jade Alain
Beat the Traffic
Sunday, March 9, 2014, 5:58 AM

Twice a year we change the time on our clocks by moving them ahead one hour in March, then setting them back one hour in November. For some, these subtle time shifts will greatly affect their body. Does daylight saving time (DST) affect your travels and overall performance during the day? Some academic researchers would say yes.

Although most of the effects from daylight savings time, positive or negative, are a result of the reduced sleep in the spring, one of the most serious impacts is seen after the fall time change. In a study from 2007, researchers found a significant increase in the number of pedestrians killed by vehicles on the day following the fall time change. This increase has been attributed to the extra time it takes for humans to adjust to earlier darkness. Accordingly, you should be extra careful when driving around pedestrians at that time of the year.

Several other studies indicate that there is a high risk of car accidents on the day following the spring time change, which was Monday, March 9. Although other research indicates no such change, it is still highly debated amongst scientists. Some researchers argue that the shift of time affects your sleeping patterns (circadian rhythms), which then affects alertness. Alertness in drivers is one of the best ways to avoid incidents and collisions. If you are less attentive, then there is a greater risk of getting into an accident. The incidence of daytime sleepiness, the mid-day crash or dozing off, also increases on the day following the time change. This too has been linked to an increase of fatal motor vehicle collisions.

DST in the spring also affects focus levels. Apparently, workplace injuries increase during the week following the time change. This is due to lack of concentration, which again is caused by a disruption in sleep patterns. During the same week, managers will often see decreased productivity among their staff, as well as an increase in computer “cyberloafing”. 

That single lost hour of sleep can have some surprising and sometimes serious health effects as well. Research indicates that during the first three days following the March time change, the incidence of heart attacks increases by nearly five percent in comparison to other days in the year.  

Despite all the negative side effects of DST, there are good sides to it as well. It was demonstrated through a study in 2010 that once your body gets used to the time change, daylight saving time might diminish the number of crashes as the morning light increases visibility for drivers.

Although daylight saving time affects your sleep, humans are amazing creatures and adapt quickly to the changes.  Your recovery rate will depend on factors like health, lifestyle and sleeping patterns. It can take as little as a day, or as long as a week.

The effects of daylight saving time are concentrated in the days following each time change. How can you reduce your chance of injury, collision and heart attacks following a time change? Through better sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe positive actions taken to help you sleep better. Here are a few tips you can easily follow to improve the quality of your sleep: 

  • Go to bed 15 minutes earlier for a couple of days as this will help prevent fatigue. 
  • Start reducing the consumption of drinks that contain stimulants such as coffee or alcohol late in the afternoon. As a result, you will more relaxed before bed, and you will sleep better at night, 
  • Exercise also helps improve sleep quality if done at least two to three hours before bedtime.   
  • Avoid using computers, phones, or watching the television, at least an hour before bed. Try reading a book, writing a letter or meditating before bed instead.   
  • Take a hot bath with Epsom salts to relax you before bed. 
  • Drink warm tea with no caffeine, or a calming tea, before bedtime.  

Now that you know a little bit more about the effects of daylight saving time has on our internal clock and how to cope with it in the days following, you can fully enjoy the additional sunlight. 

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