Are You Prepared for Daylight Saving Time

a clock that has just been set one hour ahead for daylight saving time sits in front of white tulips

After a relatively mild winter, spring is upon us which means turning our clocks ahead to Daylight Saving Time (DST).

Sure, we will lose an hour of sleep on March 10, but we also gain more daylight in the evening. While it is a welcome trade-off for many people, the first week after the return of DST can present challenges that can lead to accidents, injuries and even death.

Researchers annually report a spike in automobile accidents in the first few days after the clocks spring forward. But the danger is not only on our roads. According to Business Insider, hospitals in the United States report a 24 per cent increase in heart-attack visits every year on the Monday following the switch. Conversely, when people are afforded an extra hour of sleep after clocks return to Standard Time in the fall, heart-attack visits decrease by 21 per cent, the Business Insider states.

DST also causes more reports of injuries at work and an increase in strokes, the media outlet adds.

“That's how fragile and susceptible your body is to even just one hour of lost sleep," sleep expert Matthew Walker told Insider.

The History of Daylight Saving Time.

In 1895, a New Zealand entomologist first proposed the idea of a two-hour time shift so he could have more after-work hours of sunshine in the summer. His idea was largely ignored for several decades until the Germans, looking for ways to save energy during the First World War, adopted Daylight Saving Time in 1916.

While Germany was the first country to introduce DST, residents of Port Arthur, Ont. (now known as Thunder Bay) are credited with being the first in the world to embrace the practice when they moved their clocks forward on July 1, 1908.

Canada formally introduced Daylight Saving Time in 1918 as a way to increase production during wartime but dropped it the same year. The practice was reintroduced during the Second World War and remains with us despite repeated calls to do away with the concept.

Not all parts of Canada observe DST, notably Saskatchewan and Yukon. And critics of the practice argue that it does not necessarily help to conserve energy since people will continue to do all the things they did in Standard Time in Daylight Saving Time, such as watching television or running heaters or air conditioners.

In fact, in a 1970s study, the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded the total electricity savings associated with DST amounted to about one per cent in the spring and fall months, according to the History Channel.

The Effect of Time Changes.

When clocks spring forward or fall back it disrupts our circadian rhythm, also known as our internal body clock. These rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioural changes we experience during a 24-hour cycle.

Noting that “light and darkness are the most powerful timing cues for alertness and sleepiness in the human body” the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) states people are more alert in the daytime when there is bright sunlight.

The AASM, which has called for the end of seasonal time changes, says DST causes “ongoing misalignment between our sleep/wake rhythm and the light/dark cycle, also called ‘social jet lag.’”

Researchers say with increased daylight into the evening, people tend to go to bed and fall asleep later, which can result in chronic sleep loss.

‘Major Public Health Problem’.

Stanley Coren, a neuropsychological researcher and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, told the New England Journal of Medicine that it has become “increasingly clear that insufficient sleep and disrupted circadian rhythms are a major public health problem.”

He states the cost of sleep-related accidents exceeded US$56 billion in 1988 and even small changes in the amount of sleep people get can have major consequences.

“It has been suggested that as a society we are chronically sleep-deprived and that small additional losses of sleep may have consequences for public and individual safety,” Coren writes. “The loss of merely one hour of sleep can increase the risk of traffic accidents.”

In the fall when clocks go back, it gets darker earlier for the evening commute and even though we may have had an extra hour’s sleep, drivers may feel somewhat fatigued. That can result in a failure to check mirrors or lead some to drift out of lanes, brake erratically or miss exits or turns.

During DST the sun rises an hour later so during the first week, motorists may struggle with driving in the dark during the morning commute.

The Globe and Mail reports people get about 40 minutes less sleep after clocks spring forward, which may not seem like much. However, it can have a significant impact on those who are already sleep-deprived.

Studies show it can take people a few days to get used to the switch.

“A lot of the consequences are very similar to distracted driving, except you experience them your entire drive and not just when you’re texting,” Jeffrey Hickman, a researcher with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, told the Globe.

Take Steps to Minimize the Impact.

The springtime change can affect productivity and concentration along with your physical and mental health. It is not only drivers and pedestrians who should take precautions in the days after the switch. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says a survey of U.S. mining injuries from 1983 to 2006 showed a 5.7 per cent increase in workplace injuries and 67.6 per cent more work days lost due to injuries on the first Monday following DST than on other days.

The AASM has suggestions leading to March 10 to help transition from standard time to daylight saving:

  • Get at least seven hours of sleep per night before and after the time change.
  • Gradually adjust your sleep and wake times, shifting your bedtime 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night for a few nights before the time change.
  • Adjust daily routines, such as meal times, to match your new schedule prior to the time change.
  • Set your clocks to the new time on Saturday evening and go to bed at your normal bedtime.
  • Go outside for some sunlight on Sunday morning and dim the lights in the evening.
  • Adjusting your exposure to light and darkness will help set your body clock, which regulates the timing of sleep and alertness.
  • Get plenty of sleep on Sunday night.

The time change is also a good time to think of safety measures around the house. Studies show three of every home fire deaths occur in dwellings with no smoke alarms. Now is a good time to assess whether your home has adequate alarms. You should install or check carbon monoxide detectors.

We are here to help.

We all have a part to play when it comes to safety. However, accidents can happen no matter how well you prepare.

If you or a family member have been injured due to the negligence of others, the experienced team of personal injury lawyers at Gluckstein Lawyers can help you get the financial help you deserve.

You may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering, loss of earnings, past and future loss of income and out-of-pocket expenses not covered by your insurance company. Contact us today. Your initial meeting is free and without obligation on your part. We will never charge legal fees until your claim is settled.


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