Spring into Daylight Savings Time

What is Daylight Savings Time?

At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 14, 2021, Canada will move the clocks ahead one hour and begin Daylight Savings Time, which gives us an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.

Daylight saving was first rolled out in Ontario in 1908. Germany became the first country to adopt it in 1916. Britain, Canada, the USA and most of Europe followed over the next few years.

How does Daylight Savings Time affect us?

Our body is regulated by circadian rhythms, which are the 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock. They run in the background and control essential functions such as appetite, metabolism, mood and sleep.  They depend on light exposure and are synchronized with natural light-darkness cycles.

Changing between DST and Standard Time means we are disrupting our circadian rhythms and they don’t adapt instantly to the abrupt one-hour time change. This disruption in your sleep-wake cycle (you are waking up an hour earlier), can make you feel tired in the morning.

A lack of sleep can lead to increased irritability and distress (ask anyone with a baby). Anxiety and depression are often linked to unhealthy sleep habits or inability to get enough sleep.

Other consequences of changing to Daylight Savings Time.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) reports that when we put our clocks forward (in the spring), traffic accidents increase by a massive 23% on the Monday following.  Workers who drive as part of their jobs are at increased risk as are lift truck and crane operators, truck drivers, and even pilots.

A number of other studies have identified an increase in accidents in general during the week that follows the time change. People who work traditional hours may take several days to fully realign their sleep schedule after the time change.

What can we do to minimize the impacts of Daylight Savings Time?

In the days leading up to Daylight Savings Time, you can prepare yourself for the adjustment by taking the following steps:

  1. Gradually alter your bedtime: Two to three days before the change to Daylight Savings Time, try to go to bed 15-20 minutes earlier than usual. Adjust your wake up time in the same way. This can help your body make a smoother transition when the time change occurs
  2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine that helps you calm down and tells your brain that it's time for sleep. If you experience a lot of stress during the day, find ways to release the stress before you go to bed. Try something that’s not stimulating, such as reading, meditation, stretching or even relaxing in a bath.
  3. Try to make your bedroom dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
  4. Avoid drinking caffeine for up to four hours before bedtime. Also, hold back from drinking alcohol before bed. While alcohol can help you relax and make you feel sleepy, it also causes sleep disruption, leading to poor quality sleep by reducing your REM sleep (the phase of your sleep where your brain exercises key neural connections which are vital to your mental and overall well-being). Eating large meals or sugary snacks can also have a negative effect on how well you sleep.

For those of us who drive, below are four things you can do to keep safe during this transition period.

  1. Plan some extra time for your morning travel. Give yourself extra time to drive to and from work next week so you don’t have to rush.
  2. Keep your distance. While it is good driving practice to keep plenty of space between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead, it is even more important during this change to Daylight Savings Time. You are probably not the only one driving who is tired and a bit irritable so give other road users that bit of extra space.
  3. See and be seen. There will be less light in the early morning, so make sure your vehicle lights are all working properly and switch them on. Remember, the daylight running lights do not include your tail lights.
  4. Expect the unexpected. Be alert to everything going on around you, be prepared for other drivers and pedestrians who may not have planned as well as you have, and may not have adjusted their behavior to account for the changes yet. Set an example by making smart driving decisions.

Finally

There are some positives to Daylight Savings Time, such as coming home from work earlier (by the sun clock) and having more hours of daylight during our free time after work. Some studies suggest that, in the long term, there is a reduction in accidents as more people drive home from work in daylight

Whichever side of the debate you favor, simply being aware of the increased risk of accidents following the time change may just help people be more prepared.

References

Daylight saving time: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement:

https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.8780

Changing to daylight saving time cuts into sleep and increases workplace injuries.

https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0015320

Why should we abolish daylight saving time?

https://doi.org/10.1177/0748730419854197

A Chrono biological evaluation of the acute effects of daylight saving time on traffic accident risk.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.12.045

Accident rates and the impact of daylight saving time transitions.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2017.11.029

It feels like John Quinn has been involved in safety forever. He started as a union safety representative, then a firefighter, an occupational health nurse, and for the last 18 years an HS&E advisor for a range of industries including Nuclear, Aerospace, Construction, Social Services, Marine Transport, Smelting and Demolition. John is the co-creator of www.safetyknowledgehub.ca