Daylight Saving Time & Sleep Schedules: The Impact of an Hour
Unless in Hawaii or Arizona, Daylight Saving Time recently changed up sleep schedules. The November clock change offered an extra (glorious) hour of sleep time. But its impacts are even more wide-ranging.
Daylight Saving Time continues to be implemented in an effort to reduce nationwide energy consumption. In fact, the four-week extension of Daylight Saving Time, added in 2007, saves an additional 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours. This is the equivalent of the annual usage of 100,000+ households, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
That’s a great deal of energy savings!
However, it can zap internal energy levels. Whether gaining an hour or losing one come Spring, Daylight Saving Time can be disruptive to sleep schedules. This has residual impacts on waking life and work life.
Daylight Saving Time & Sleep: Gaining an Hour
Many look forward to “Fall Back Sunday” in November. And for good reason: It essentially extends the weekend by 60 minutes. (Woohoo!) What’s often overlooked, however, is the impact on sleep-wake cycles.
While mobile devices may automatically update to the time change, the body sticks to its normally scheduled program. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is still released in the body based on its usual cues, such as light. The biggest impact, however, may be due to change in wake-up times. A consistent wake-up time is just as important as consistent bedtime, and even small changes — like an extra hour of sleep — can disrupt circadian rhythms. In addition to sleep, circadian rhythms regulate body temperature, hunger and hormones. Disruptions to sleep can cause a ripple effect for up to a week or more. It’s why many sleep scientists stress the importance of maintaining a consistent wake-up time with no more than 15 to 30 minutes of variance each day. (This even means weekends.)
Daylight Saving Time & Sleep: Losing an Hour
Daylight Saving Time occurs again in March, but this time it means “losing” an hour of sleep. The “spring forward” clock change is just as disruptive to sleep schedules and may even be felt more acutely. In fact, several studies have shown slight upticks in heart attacks directly following Daylight Saving Time in the springtime.
Daylight Saving Time & Sleep: Healthcare Shift-Work, Students & More
Another group greatly impacted by Daylight Saving Time? Those who are regularly sleep-deprived. This could mean registered nurses on a shift-work schedule or students with a packed school routine and extracurricular activities. Sleep deprivation can start surprisingly early. For instance, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 9-12 hours of sleep for those between 6 and 12 years old. However, only 40% meet the critical sleep recommendations for K-12 students. Those with long-term sleep deprivation might experience problems with cognitive abilities, such as memory, problem-solving and learning.
Daylight Saving Time & Sleep: Impact on Corporate Employees
There are also impacts for those with more traditional 9-to-5 schedules. In fact, one study showed a substantial increase in “cyberloafing” at the office directly following Daylight Saving Time. Cyberloafing is the act of surfing the web on company time, and it has been linked to $600 million dollars lost in workplace productivity. Whether it is checking personal email or online shopping, it is often difficult for employers to discern whether an employee is engaging in cyberloaf activity; the employee is still physically present in the office and typing away at the computer.
Daylight Saving Time, Sleep & Workplace Productivity
What may be more in the organization’s control is the opportunity to guide employees toward healthy sleep and stress management. It’s true that much of the sleep homework will be done at home, such as gradually adjusting wake times two to three nights before the time change. But there are many ways to help employees recover and reset internal clocks during the workday until the body adjusts. This, in turn, can help mitigate lost productivity due to Daylight Saving Time.
Workplace Sleep and Stress Management Techniques include:
- Meditation & Mindfulness
- Deep Breathing Exercises
- Physical Adjustments
- Light Desk Exercises
A few moments to reset the mind during the workday can help employees reduce stress levels and increase the ability to stay present and on task. Maintaining mental balance throughout the day can help regulate physiological responses, which might be off-kilter due to the time change, and lead to better sleep quality.
Sleep is key to health — and a healthy workforce. Daylight Saving Time might seem like just an hour lost or gained. But an hour is pretty substantial when it comes to sleep. The good news is: a few moments of mindfulness can be just as impactful. Proper sleep and stress management can help employees and employers effectively navigate Daylight Saving Time.