How daylight savings time negatively affects safety

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Daylight savings time safety: How the switch can cause health and work issues

Every year, twice a year, we switch between standard and daylight savings time. No one really knows why anymore, but one thing we do know is it throws us off our routines — sometimes for at least a couple of days. This can be especially true of the switch to daylight savings time specifically, where we lose an hour of sleep as our clocks “jump ahead”.

Now, researchers are discovering that falling back and springing forward are affecting more than our schedules — they are also linked to changes in our diets, health, and can even increase the chances of an accident.


How losing an hour adversely affects us

Here’s how daylight savings time negatively affects safety, and a few tips on how to keep yourself and your employees safe around the office or on the road:

Using U.S. Department of Labor and Mine Safety and Health Administration data, researchers studying industrial and organizational psychology found that the number of workplace accidents spikes after daylight savings time changes every March. The time change results in up to 40 minutes less sleep for the average worker. This has led to a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries and up to 68 percent more days lost due to those injuries (meaning they were more severe). You can view more details in NBC’s article.

But does losing one hour of sleep really make a difference? It can, experts say, especially for those engaged in jobs requiring a high level of attention to detail. Studies have shown that lost sleep causes attention levels to drop off. For operators of heavy machinery, that attention to detail is crucial. For your pharmacist, surgeon or tax preparer, that attention to detail is crucial.

It can even affect your driving skills. Twenty years ago, researchers from Johns Hopkins and Stanford published a comprehensive 21-year study on fatal car crash data. They found an increase in crash deaths on the Monday after the switch to daylight saving time, from an average of 78.2 deaths on any Monday to 83.5 deaths after the time change.

Related: Share these safe driving tips with your contractors and business owners

These disruptions can also affect our moods; a lack of proper sleep can exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety and mental exhaustion. The spring forward time change can even have links to a heart attack or stroke.

A 2014 study showed that losing just one hour of sleep during the spring time change raised the risk of a heart attack the following Monday by 24 percent. Ironically, gaining an extra hour in the fall time change led to a 21 percent lower risk of heart attack.


How you can adjust to losing an hour more easily

So what can you do to help make sure the transition goes more smoothly?

  • Adjust your bedtime in the week leading up to daylight savings time, going to sleep and getting out of bed earlier as the date approaches. This will give your body time to adapt to the change instead of getting hit with it all at once.
  • Don’t over-caffeinate. Avoid stimulants (like caffeine, tobacco and alcohol) for several hours before bedtime and take care not to drastically alter your coffee intake by chugging multiple cups the next day.
  • If you already suffer from fatigue, reassess your sleeping habits. If possible, try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Establish a bedtime routine that allows the brain to realize when it’s time to sleep.
  • Help your body equate bed with sleep—watching television or working in bed exposes the body to mixed messages and you might find it hard to fall asleep.
  • Don’t bring any technology into the bedroom. The light from the screens interferes with your circadian rhythms. Additionally, phones, tablets and computers stimulate the brain instead of allowing it to relax.
  • In the morning, make opening the curtains and turning on lights one of your first actions. Light, more than anything else, jumpstarts your body.
Related: Workplace safety reward programs help stop accidents before they start