My humble opinion on implications of the biannual time change and our need for consistently adequate sleep
Daylight saving time is a constant point of debate. However, the position of most sleep researchers on daylight saving time is clear — it is disruptive to people’s sleep. Both the beginning and end of daylight saving time forces a shift in our natural sleep/wake patterns, or our circadian rhythms. One thing that the end of daylight saving time may expose is the level of chronically poor sleep in the general population.
When daylight saving time starts during the spring, we lose an hour of time, and that normally means losing an hour of sleep. While this may not seem like much, the time shift to daylight saving time is often accompanied with more traffic accidents, poorer health outcomes, and increased hospitalizations. Maintaining inadequate sleep duration (i.e., chronic sleep deprivation) can “add up” and cause similar negative consequences of losing sleep for a full night (i.e., total sleep deprivation; see the research study here and an article here). These negative effects that are related to daylight saving time and thereby sleep loss are expected, making the stance against this time change reasonable.
So what about the end of daylight saving time? Does getting an extra hour in the day help with getting enough sleep? The research here is mixed. Some have found no meaningful increase in sleep duration related to the end of daylight saving time in the fall. This may be because sleep/wake cycles are partially regulated by sleep pressure, or how sleepy we are, and they are also regulated by timing and circadian cues like environmental light and our internal, biological clock. If we are well-rested and there is not much sleep pressure, it is likely that we will wake up at the same time we would normally (e.g., an hour earlier, maintaining the same sleep duration). However, if we are more tired and the sleep pressure is high enough, we might sleep for the “extra” hour instead of waking up at our usual time.
There is some research to suggest that the end of daylight saving time does just this — it extends sleep duration in the general population. This sleep extension has been linked with several positive outcomes, including fewer traffic accidents, fewer hospitalizations, and higher work productivity. Taken together, the implications of this research suggest that the loss of sleep is detrimental to general functioning and wellbeing.
The long and short of this is that we shouldn’t need daylight savings time to show us that we need to sleep more. Getting enough sleep on a regular basis is something that we, as a society, need to actively prioritize. We sometimes romanticize not getting enough sleep because we’re busy. We have important work to complete, people to see, etc. But how can we be effective in our work or present with the people we care about if we’re consistently tired instead of well-rested? I humbly argue that we can’t, and we shouldn’t have to try to. I hope that perceptions about getting adequate rest and prioritizing sleep continue to be taken more seriously.
Enjoyed this post and want to say thanks?