Losing an hour to Daylight Saving Time can cost you much more than sleep

If you’re like me, every November you delight in getting an extra hour of sleep. Losing an hour in the spring? Ha! That’s a problem for “Future Me.”

Well, the future is now. And, within a matter of weeks, you and I will both experience the pain of groggily hearing your alarm blare as you ask yourself, “is Daylight Saving Time really worth it?”

The debate is hotly contested. Daylight Saving Time (DST) was originally introduced as an energy-saving idea to reduce our need for artificial light. Gaining more daylight during a time where people are most active can make certain activities safer and helps the economy. However, when an already sleep-deprived society collectively loses an hour of sleep, it can be detrimental to our health and well-being and reduce our productivity.

In this blog post, I explain why ill health and personal injury rates jump when our clocks “spring forward” by an hour, and how you can combat some of these negative effects.

Chronic insufficient sleep causes problems during waking hours

Although we lose an hour of our day when Daylight Saving Time begins, people who are normally asleep at this hour lose about 40 minutes of sleep on average. That might not seem like a big deal, but one-third of us are already not getting the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies definitely feel it.

Health Canada reports that insufficient sleep in adults leads to:

  • More sedentary time (four hours compared to 3.5 hours for people who have adequate sleep)
  • Chronic stress (36.3 per cent of adults who have insufficient sleep report chronic stress compared to 23.2 per cent of adults with adequate sleep)
  • Poor mental health (more than twice as many people with inadequate sleep report having poor mental health compared to adults with adequate sleep)

Losing sleep can mean losing lives

While chronic insufficient sleep can cause serious health problems, even short-term sleep deprivation can have serious consequences.

Studies suggest the heart attack rate in the days following the beginning of Daylight Saving Time increase between seven to 25 per cent. Other research found the rate of ischemic stroke increased by eight per cent in the two days following DST. Studies show an increase in the number of suicides that remains elevated for weeks after the clocks move forward.

Moreover, a review of workplace injuries in the United States found that there are an average of 3.6 more injuries on the Monday after we “spring ahead” compared to other days.

Roads are also potentially more dangerous at this time. A person’s risk of causing a car accident increases for each hour of sleep lost. For example, the likelihood of being involved in a motor vehicle accident was 1.3 times higher and 15.1 times higher if a driver had six or four hours of sleep, respectively.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) found a 23 per cent increase in car accidents on the Monday following the start of DST. Research from the United States suggests the rate of fatal car accidents increases by 5.4 to 7.6 per cent for six days following the transition. Interestingly, statistics from Ontario and Quebec suggest pedestrian accidents actually decrease during this period.

What can be done?

Ontario passed legislation in 2020 that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent, but the change will only take effect if Quebec and New York state approve a similar change. The change was spurred by a similar (yet thus far unsuccessful) effort by some U.S. senators.

While the end of the semiannual disruption to our sleep schedules may prevent some associated ill-effects, sleep experts have lamented that lawmakers have opted to keep the clocks at the “wrong time.” The Sleep Research Society has petitioned to make Standard Time permanent because “daylight saving time causes acute sleep loss and chronic circadian misalignment as the timing of natural light becomes desynchronized from normal physiological processes.”

Whether or not we adopt Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time permanently at some point in the future, until we rid ourselves from the alternating hour of sleep deficit/sleep surplus, here are some tips to consider as Daylight Saving Time approaches:

  • Try to move your bedtime forward by 15-minute increments in the week before the time change.
  • Slow down during your commute, especially on the Monday following DST.
  • When driving, give more space than usual to cars around you.
  • Wear sunglasses as the sun will now be in your eyes during your evening commute.
  • Avoid dangerous or potentially hazardous activities until later in the week to reduce the likelihood you’ll be tired, sleepy or have diminished ability to concentrate.

Help if you’re hurt!

If you or a loved one have the misfortune of suffering a serious injury from an accident in the days after the clocks spring ahead, you may be entitled to accident benefits or compensation.

All people in Ontario who are involved in a motor vehicle collision are eligible for Statutory Accident Benefits (SABS) to assist with medical bills and income lost due to injury. If another person’s negligence caused or contributed to your injury, you may also be able to make a claim for civil damages.

Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP has helped many people just like you in the aftermath of traumatic accidents. When you contact us for a no cost, no obligation initial consultation, we will listen as you tell us your story, explain your legal rights and options, and answer any questions you may have. If we believe we can help you access resources to aid in your recovery, we will gladly offer to be your trusted legal representative and advocate.

Losing an hour of sleep can be aggravating, but it is nothing compared to pain a person experiences when they suffer a debilitating injury. At HSH, we say “Hope Starts Here.” Contact us to learn how we can be on your side and by your side as you move forward with your life.

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