We pushed our clocks forward an hour over the weekend (unless you forgot to change your clocks because your phone automatically updated, in which case: the clock on your microwave is wrong).
As a result, you’re probably pretty tired today. (Some people may also be tired for other reasons, like perhaps some of us — and it could really be any of us here, anyone writing this post or reading it — stayed up late into the night finishing the first season of “True Detective,” and it was really worth it but we are still quite tired. Either reason is valid.)
But is daylight saving time actually bad for you? Several studies suggest that there are significant drawbacks. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology (flagged by Rebecca Rosen) found that workers sleep about 40 minutes less on the Monday after we push the clocks forward (i.e. today, this Monday). Shifting the clocks also leads to an uptick in injuries, putting “employees in clear and present danger,” wrote Christopher M. Barnes and David T. Wagner of Michigan State University.
The impact of springing forward is tougher on the body than the fall change, Barnes and Wagner write, because it’s harder to fall asleep earlier than it is to stay up for an extra hour.
Overall, the spring time change is accompanied by decreases in sleep duration and efficiency. This shift comes with significant health concerns. Swedish researchers found in 2008 that pushing the clocks forward increased the risk of heart attacks the week after the change.
(There’s a corresponding decrease in the risk of heart attacks on the Monday after clocks are switched back an hour in the fall, but the drop for the week after that change is less than the increase the week after the spring change.)
There are also safety issues. In 1996, Canadian researchers reported that the number of traffic accidents spiked after the clocks changed in the spring. A 2001 study found a similar increase in fatal crashes in the U.S. This stems from the idea that drivers, tired after losing an hour of sleep, are facing difficulties during their morning and evening commutes the day after the switch. In the morning, it gets light an hour later, so drivers may be commuting in the dark for the first time in months; at night, they are commuting an hour later.
What can be done? Barnes and Wagner write that employees could add extra safety monitors the Monday after the change to try to prevent workplace injuries. Another option is changing the start times for employees the days after the clocks change.
Or, as many people suggest, you could just abolish daylight saving time. Until that happens, though, be cautious at the office and on the road today. And try to go to bed early tonight (unless there’s a show you really, really want to finish, of course).