It’s that awful time of year again: spring daylight saving time. At 2:00 am on May 11, Americans will all set their clocks forward one hour. While this is good news for getting to actually experience sunlight again after the long, dark winter, setting your clocks forward unfortunately also means a lost hour of sleep. That single hour of lost sleep might not sound like much, but a leading sleep researcher at at Harvard Medical School says that hour causes accidents every year. Is daylight saving time worth the cost?
Harvard associate professor of medicine Jeanne Duffy sat down with The Harvard Gazette recently to discuss the upcoming daylight saving time. Duffy has spent her career studying the negative health effects of chronic insufficient sleep, particularly the interactions between sleep and metabolism. In the interview, Duffy says that every year, daylight saving time causes an uptick in accidents on the first workday after the clock change:
The problem is that we as a society are so sleep-deprived that when we lose that additional hour of sleep, it really throws us. In fact, there have been studies done both here in the U.S. and in the U.K. that show that on the Monday after that time zone change, there’s about a 10 percent increase in automobile accidents. That does not happen in the fall when the clocks change the other way and we get an extra hour of sleep.
To prevent accidents in the week following the daylight saving time change, Duffy recommends planning ahead to go to sleep early, allowing your body to adjust to new bed and wake times slowly. Or, she adds, you can merely increase your coffee intake. “Recognize that you are much more vulnerable to having an accident due to inattention from sleep loss, especially those first couple of days,” Duffy says. “Drink an extra cup of coffee or, if you can, take the train to work, and go to bed a little earlier as well.” Better yet, why not call in sick? Seems like a great time to escape the recycled air of your fart-filled office and get outside for a few days. Just remember to lay low on social media.