For more than a century, Daylight Savings Time (DST) has been an integral part of the lives of people across the globe. Twice a year, approximately 70 countries set their clocks forward or back by one hour to make better use of natural daylight and conserve energy. However, in recent years, there has been a growing debate about whether daylight savings time is beneficial or should be abandoned altogether.
What impact does DST have on our exposure to natural light?
Daylight Savings Time (DST) can significantly impact our exposure to sunlight, which can have far-reaching consequences for our health and well-being. The bi-annual time change can disrupt our circadian rhythm and throw our sleep-wake cycle off balance. This can lead to:
● Poor sleep
● Decreased productivity
● Slower metabolism
Increases in mental and physical health disorders, including heart attacks, have also been linked to the time shift.
One of the most noticeable effects of DST is the change in our exposure to natural light. In the Spring, when clocks are set forward by one hour, we experience a shift in the timing of sunrise and sunset, resulting in less natural light in the mornings and more in the evenings. This change can be especially difficult for people who are already struggling with sleep.
The Research On DST & Health
The evidence is mounting to suggest that Daylight Savings Time could be damaging to our health.
A report published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that in the weeks following DST, there was an increased risk of heart attacks.
Additionally, a 2016 study published in the Sleep Medicine journal found a link between the occurrence of stroke-related events in relation to DST.
I’m sure many of us have heard about the increase in car accidents following the time shift. According to a study published by Current Biology, “Spring DST transition acutely increases fatal traffic accident risk by 6% in the US.”
Canadian Sleep Society’s DST Position Statement
The Canadian Sleep Society (CSS) has taken a strong stance on the issue of Daylight Saving Time, advocating for its abandonment. The CSS believes that the bi-annual time change disrupts our sleep patterns and circadian rhythm, leading to a wide range of negative effects on our health.
Particular attention was focused on Canada's northern geographical location and its effects on the combination of time zones and sunlight exposure, resulting in a dramatic reduction of daylight during the winter months and extended periods of light during summer.
Due to Canada’s northern geography, the daylight hours during Fall and Winter are lower than in most U.S. states in the same time zone, often averaging less than 8.5 hours. Many Canadians travel to work or school in the morning while it’s still dark out, and this negatively impacts their circadian rhythm. Young children going to school in the dark can particularly be an issue.
In light of these concerns, the CSS has called for the termination of DST and the adoption of a permanent time (ST). The CSS supports its position with a comprehensive review of the available research, highlighting DST's disruptive effects on our sleep patterns and circadian rhythm.
If negotiations end in keeping the practice of DST, the CSS recommends two improvements:
1. Time change should occur in early April/October to align more closely with the Equinoxes, resulting in a less disruptive transition between daylight and darkness.
2. The time shift should be implemented on Friday night to give people extra time to adjust their sleeping patterns before returning to school or work on Monday morning.
What can we do to adjust to Daylight Savings Time?
While DST is still a part of our lives, here are some helpful strategies to help ease the transition:
Rather than attempting to alter your sleep schedule abruptly, gradually adjust by 15 minutes, beginning a few days prior.
Start by setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier rather than attempting to go to bed before feeling sleepy. Doing this makes you more likely to feel sleepy enough to drift off 15 minutes earlier in the evening.
Try to get outside for a morning walk in natural light each day, as this can help reset your circadian rhythm. The extra exercise will also help build up your sleep drive for the next night.
If you’re feeling tired, don’t try to compensate by napping. While this may make you feel better in the short term, it will only worsen things in the long run.
Remember that DST is only a time shift of one hour compared to going on vacation several time zones away. A couple of days and a little patience are likely all you need to adjust to the new time.
DST Tips For Employers
Daylight Savings Time can be challenging for employers, with employees potentially feeling the effects of disrupted sleep and decreased productivity.
Here are some tips for employers to help employees transition smoothly during DST:
It is important to remind your staff of DST to ensure they are aware of the change and mentally prepare them for the transition.
Implementing flexible hours can help your employees adjust to the time shift and may even increase productivity.
To promote a smoother transition to the new time change, consider reducing the workload for a couple days. This helps manage stress levels and gives employees extra energy to dedicate to their tasks.
Take a moment to consider the importance of that one hour of sleep for your employees. It's worth it to make life easier for them and your business. Showing your team that you care about their well-being could prove to be beneficial for both of you!
Ending DST Could Improve Sleep
Daylight Savings Time can impact our exposure to light, which can negatively affect sleep patterns and circadian rhythm. It's important to be aware of these effects and to take steps to minimize their impact.
While DST may have been introduced with good intentions, the evidence suggests it is causing more harm than good. It’s time for us to consider abolishing Daylight Savings Time and moving towards a permanent standard time (ST).
In the meantime, try to focus on the strategies above without putting too much pressure on yourself. The post-time shift exhaustion is real, and you are not alone. However, if you push through, your body’s internal clock will naturally adjust to the new time in a day or two, so try to be patient and not worry about it too much.
Looking for support to get your sleep back on track?
Do you find yourself struggling with sleep for more than 2 days after Daylight Savings Time? or regardless of the time change? Maybe you’ve tried several sleep strategies in the past, and nothing seems to work. I deeply understand your frustration, and I am here to help.
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