Daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, when the clocks in most U.S. states will “spring forward” by being moved ahead one hour.
This small time shift is an annoyance for many, but could also have an effect on their health.
Research has suggested that daylight saving time could cause an increase in heart attacks, stroke and headaches among other health issues. This is due to the disruption of the circadian rhythm (body’s internal clock) and the resulting loss of sleep that many will experience following the time change, according to Huron County Public Health officials.
Some studies have shown a disruption in a person’s sleeping pattern for weeks after the time change has occurred. However, even if a person’s sleep is not greatly affected, it may still take two to three days before their body has completely adjusted.
External health risks also exist.
“Many will find on Monday that their normal morning commutes will be darker than they’re used to, which can be especially dangerous for pedestrians and children waiting at bus stops,” says Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central. “Moreover, less sleep can lead to an increase in the number of drowsy drivers, so motorists should prepare themselves to adjust to losing an hour of sleep and then driving in darker conditions.”
Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that drivers who don’t get enough sleep put everyone on the road at risk, and that drowsy driving crashes are nearly eight times more prominent than indicated by federal estimates due to the difficulty in detecting drowsiness following a crash.
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. motorists sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily — which could be exacerbated by this weekend’s time change.
The most common symptoms of drowsy driving include having trouble keeping your eyes open, drifting from your lane and not remembering the last few miles driven.
Federal legislation has been introduced that would make daylight saving time year-round for the entire nation.
If the proposal becomes law, the time shift would be permanent, with more light at the end of the day and less in the morning. And people would be saved the agony of the twice a year resetting of clocks.
A current poll on the Reflector website reveals that 81 percent of the responders don’t want to change their clocks twice a year.
But since such a change won’t happen before Sunday, Huron County Public Health officials offered these tips to help make adjusting to the time change a little easier:
• Do not drink caffeine for a few days before or after the time change.
• Try to start going to bed earlier in the days leading up to Daylight Saving Time.
• Turn off electronic devices before heading to bed. Bright screens can affect a person’s ability to fall asleep.
• Eat a healthy breakfast in the morning. Food allows the body to know when it is time to start the day.
• Get some sunlight. Sunlight can help reset the body’s circadian rhythm.
Given that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, AAA East Central advises motorists to take the following steps:
• Plan for an extra hour of sleep to offset the time change.
• Avoid heavy foods before driving.
• Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.
• Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake.
• For longer trips, schedule a break every two hours or 100 miles.
Additionally, pedestrians should take the following steps to increase their safety:
• Pay attention while walking, especially near crosswalks.
• Wear bright colors or reflective clothing at dusk and at night.
• Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
• Make eye contact with drivers when crossing streets.
• Walk on the sidewalk, or walk facing traffic if there are no sidewalks.
• Cross at intersections, and never run out from in between parked cars on the side of the road.
Daylight saving time facts
Though the U.S. has other daylight policies dating back to 1918, daylight saving time as it’s currently observed is because of the Uniform Time Act, signed in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
It’s supposed to save energy.
Germany is credited with enacting the first daylight saving time policy in 1916 to save energy during World War I, according to Time magazine. The U.S. adopted its policy for similar reasons, but some recent studies have shown that it could actually increase energy usage.
Daylight saving time is observed in most of the United States, with two exceptions: Arizona and Hawaii. Hawaii has never observed daylight saving time, and Arizona's state Legislature voted to opt out in 1968. “That was just not going to fly in a state where triple digits go on for months and residents wake up rooting for sunset,” as the Arizona Republic explained.
Most of Canada and Mexico observe a daylight saving time policy, as do most European countries. But many countries in Africa, Asia and South America do not.
Extra daylight during the summer means more time for outdoor activities — and more time to make money for some businesses. In 1986, the golf industry and barbecue equipment makers claimed the extra daylight was worth between $200 million and $400 million, according to Time.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jesus Jimenez of The Dallas Morning News (TNS) contributed to this story.