Daylight savings took place in mid-March, and this meant the clocks in New York “sprung forward” by one hour starting at 2:00 a.m. This results in one hour less sleep that particular night, making us tired the next day.
While this one-day drowsiness may not seem like a serious issue, it can actually have long-lasting effects. These effects can impact a person’s ability to drive safely, possibly leading to more motor vehicle crashes.
The long-term impact of daylight savings time on our health
The lost hour of sleep from springtime daylight savings time can disturb a person’s circadian rhythm and sleep homeostasis for days or even months.
Sleep homeostasis is our natural desire to sleep after a long day. Our circadian rhythm is our natural 24-hour bodily sleep-wake cycle.
Daylight savings time negatively impacts both these aspects of sleep health. With more hours of daylight, our circadian rhythm can be thrown off. We feel tired when we wake up in darkness and we feel awake when it is time to go to sleep in near-daylight or dusk. This interference with our circadian rhythm goes on to affect our sleep homeostasis.
These sleep disturbances can cause physical health issues, such as fatigue, cluster headaches and cognitive and mental health issues. If you already have conditions such as these, daylight savings time sleep disturbances can worsen them.
Daylight savings time and drowsy driving
It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that daylight savings time drowsiness can impact our driving abilities. When we are tired, our reaction times are slowed, and our cognitive reasoning is impaired. This can make operating a motor vehicle more difficult.
When we cannot operate our vehicles in a manner that is safe for us and others sharing the road, we can easily cause a car crash. Research has shown there is a 6% uptick in fatal motor vehicle crashes associated with daylight savings time.
Drowsy driving is an issue we should all work together to avoid, and this means knowing your limitations when it comes to time-change and sleep. Daylight savings time is the law of the land, and until it is changed by voters or legislators, drowsy-driving accidents this time of year will continue to occur.