Renee Schofield, Certified Occupational Safety Specialist

Daylight savings time (DST) is now upon us. While most welcome the longer daylight cycle, we do know that adjusting to the time change can be a struggle. Why does one hour make such a difference? It is centered around circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that can affect mood, appetite, and perhaps most importantly, sleep. On the second Sunday of March, we “spring forward” changing our 24-hour pattern. Studies show that people lose about 40 minutes of sleep per day prior to achieving adjustment to the new rhythm.

Why does this matter in the workplace? Poor concentration and judgment can occur leading to potential accidents. According to a report from the National Safety Council, about 13 percent of workplace injuries are directly attributable to sleep problems. In addition to the incidents arising from sleep loss, people are at greater risk of mood disturbance and suicide numbers go up during this time. On the other hand, studies do show that vehicular accidents are somewhat lessened, perhaps due to commuting in more daylight situations.

Most of us will adjust to DST over a period of a few weeks. Some people might not adjust to DST, which can lead to chronic health issues such as obesity, depression and even cardiovascular disease. Because of the negative effects of this one-hour time change, some experts want to do away with daylight savings time and a number of states, territories and countries do not participate in DST for these reasons. Others advocate that more daylight improves people’s moods, allows for more outdoor time and even reduces crime rates in some areas. Regardless of the current opinion, for today, we can help ourselves and our employees prepare for DST by using these tips:

  • Maintain a good sleep routine. At least seven hours of sleep daily. Go to bed and wake up at the same time regularly.
  • Prepare for a change in your sleep schedule gradually. The Mayo Clinic recommends going to bed 15 minutes early several days before the time change and then adding another 15 minutes every few days.
  • Refrain from large meals or rich foods, caffeine and alcohol prior to going to bed. Your body needs time to work on those products before you go to sleep. Most experts recommend six hours between consumption of caffeine and bedtime.
  • Get outside! Use that extra natural light to help your body produce melatonin to support your sleep rhythm.
  • Don’t sleep late over the weekend to “catch up” on sleep. Instead, consider a short nap (no more than 20 minutes) to help your body adjust to DST.
  • Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. A quiet, dark room that is not too hot and not too cold will help you relax and get to sleep sooner.
  • If you are having trouble sleeping, don’t look at your phone or other devices. The lighting from screens tends to wake people up rather than help them sleep.
  • Avoid exercise in close proximity to bedtime. Regular exercise generally improves sleep, but not if you do it before heading to bed.

To learn more about sleep and Daylight Savings Time, we love the following sites: