I woke up in the Greek revival farmhouse that we have finally renovated in rural Connecticut yesterday feeling rested and optimistic. I wandered downstairs in an unusually happy frame of mind, poured my coffee that had been prepared by The Husband and joined him in front of the fireplace where we have two comfy chairs placed for this morning ritual. I was enjoying this lazy entry into the last day of my weekend as I looked out the windows at the snow-covered lawn leading down to the pond and sighed with contentment. My peaceful reverie ended when The Husband announced that the clocks had jumped ahead while I had been sleeping. Since I no longer wear a watch and all the devices I use automatically reset themselves when the time changes, I hadn’t prepared myself, as I usually do for the worst day of the year for me.
The worst day of the year for me is the first work day after the “spring ahead” impact of Daylight Saving Time. Adopted in more than 70 countries, Daylight Saving Time imposes a twice-yearly one-hour change in local clock time. The start of Daylight Saving Time in the spring leads to the loss of one hour of sleep on the night of the transition, but its impact on the following days continues.
Today is the day that I had to begin my workday one hour early, and in darkness, I might add. Apparently the purpose of Daylight Saving Time is to save electricity because it provides more hours of natural light at night. I still don’t understand how I am saving electricity by wandering around with the lights on for an hour longer every morning. My hour of morning light has been moved to the evening for people who want to walk or bicycle in the evening light. I wish these people would just go to the gym indoors and leave my morning hour of sleep alone.
Experts who study circadian rhythms and sleep disorders understand that the symptoms I experience at the start of Daylight Saving Time each year are not unusual. I just complain about the symptoms more than most people do. I usually have anxiety about the loss of my hour of morning sleep for weeks before the dreaded change in the clocks occurs, and then I suffer from sleep deprivation symptoms for at least a week after the change. I consume more coffee to overcome daytime drowsiness then take more drugs to prevent the destruction of my stomach lining from the coffee. And I am certainly cranky. I need morning light to prevent my already unpleasant seasonal affective disorder.
Studies and personal anecdotes supporting the destructive impact of this antiquated plan to shift the number of daylight hours we get into the evening that began as an energy conservation trick during World War I then became a national standard in the 1960s are legion. Daylight Saving Time has been documented to alter sleep patterns for weeks, affecting mood, job performance, health and the severity of auto accidents. Researchers in sleep medicine at Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities looked at what happened when millions of drivers had their sleep disrupted. They analyzed 21 years of fatal car crash data from the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and found a small but significant increase in road deaths on the Monday after the clock shift in the spring. In this study it was reported that the number of fatal accidents increased to an average of 83.5 on the “spring forward” Monday, compared with an average of 78.2 on a typical Monday. (Reference: “Fatal Accidents following changes in daylight savings time: the American experience.” )
Janszky, Ahnve, Ljung, Mukamal, Gautam, Wallentin, and Stenestrand have studied the impact of heart attacks in Sweden related to the spring ahead effect for many years. In the Journal of Sleep Medicine in 2012 they reported, “Our data suggest that even modest sleep deprivation and disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle might increase the risk of acute myocardial infarcts (heart attacks) across the population.” (Reference Sleep Med. 2012 Mar;13(3):237-42. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2011.07.019. Epub 2012 Jan 30, “Daylight Saving Time Shifts and Incidence of Acute Myocardial Infarction–Swedish Register of Information and Knowledge About Swedish Heart Intensive Care Admissions)