Daylight saving time is rapidly approaching. This weekend you’ll be able to “spring ahead” one hour – a small step closer to warmer weather. Daylight saving time was first implemented to make better use of natural light, allowing people to take advantage of the longer, sunnier hours of spring and summer.
Daylight saving occurs twice within a year – once in the spring and once in the fall. In the spring, we jump an hour ahead, essentially losing an hour. The fall is the opposite – we gain that hour back. An hour may not seem like very long, but research and statistics show that springing ahead and losing it can have some pretty weird side effects.
You may be at greater risk for a car accident
Obviously, driving drowsy isn’t safe and doesn’t just occur after the sun has set. According to a Texas A & M University study, the week after daylight saving ends there is a 7% increase in traffic accidents with a 14% increase in morning accidents – that’s crazy! Why is there a swell? “Just like when you have jet lag, your performance falls. Your cognitive abilities decrease,” explained Dr. Alfred Lewy, director of the Sleep and Mood Disorders Laboratory at Oregon Health & Science University. “Even though you’re not [necessarily] sleep deprived, your [circadian] rhythms aren’t adjusted, and that produces deficits in performance.”
According to a 2008 study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers attributed a small surge in heart attacks in the springtime to changes in people’s sleep patterns. Lack of sleep can release stress hormones that increase inflammation, which can cause more severe complications in people already at risk of having a heart attack. Even more reason to take your heart health seriously.
It almost goes without saying that the drowsiness caused by daylight saving time change leads to a loss in productivity, but it also increases cyberloafing or the amount of time people spend surfing the net. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows web searches related to entertainment rise sharply the Monday after the shift to daylight saving time. Those that participated in the study on average engaged in 8.4 minutes more of cyberloafing (or 20 % of the assigned task time) for every hour of interrupted sleep the night before.
Adding a little spring in your step
Once your body adjusts to the time change, you may find yourself a little happier. For one thing, the sun will be shining when you leave for work. Sunlight has been shown to boost your serotonin levels, helping to elevate your mood. Definitely makes the drive to work a little more tolerable, right?
Who knew that losing one little hour in your day could cause such weird side effects? Later this week, we’ll talk about what you can do to prepare for the time change and hopefully avoid some of these side effects.