Daylight savings contributes to sleep deprivation: professors

Clocks move forward one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13.

Intuitive logic may tell you losing that hour of sleep as we move our clocks forward for daylight saving time isn’t that big a deal. After all, it’s only an hour and it’s just a matter of getting to bed a little earlier on Saturday night. You won’t even feel the difference, right?

Not so, according to a series of studies that link our “spring forward” into daylight time with everything from increases in suicides to goofing off at work.

Dr. Colleen Carney, an associate professor and director of the Sleep Deprivation Laboratory at Ryerson University, said losing that hour of sleep is particularly tough on an already sleep-deprived nation.

“We have clocks (throughout) our body…losing an hour of sleep compounds an already difficult situation for some,” she said.

Dr. Stanley Coren, professor emeritus of UBC agrees.

“Very bad things happen when sleep deprivation is an issue,” he said. He pointed to research that has shown a spike in traffic and workplace accidents in the three days following daylight savings time.

“Canadian statistics show an increase in accidents of about seven per cent. A sleep-deprived person will engage in what’s called micro-sleeps, periods of about 10 seconds where the brain reverts to sleep mode. Do that while driving a car, and it’s very serious,” said Coren.

But there are ways to deal with our body’s pesky circadian rhythms.

Carney recommends a simple process that starts four days prior to daylight savings time and involves going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night and getting up 15 minutes earlier each morning. The incremental change is easier for our systems to tolerate and, by the time the actual time change comes about, you’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while others stumble about in a drowsy stupor.

Clocks move forward one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13.