When we turned our clocks forward one hour earlier Sunday morning to mark the start of Daylight Saving Time, it was with more than a little anxiety. We're well-versed in the all-too-real risks of getting too little sleep, and yes, that one lost hour can make a difference.
To start, that's one hour less on top of not very much sleep to begin with. According to the National Sleep Foundation's recent Sleep in America poll, American adults average about six hours and 51 minutes of sleep every night. Sure, that's only nine minutes shy of the seven to nine hours experts recommend -- until you make an hour disappear Sunday morning.
On top of that, even though it will only take most people a couple of days to adjust to the newly-brightened evenings, those first few days can spell trouble. On the Monday after the time switch, the number of car crashes increases, as does the number of fatal, alcohol-related accidents. Heart attacks become more common during the next few days, as do injuries in the workplace, not to mention that workers in general are less productive and more likely to waste time perusing the Internet.
And while there are ways to combat the fatigue, it's understandable why some have begun to question the necessity of this antiquated circadian rhythm shakeup.
In fact, according to a new poll conducted by mattress company Sleepy's, just about 70 percent of people support switching the start of Daylight Saving Time to 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning, giving us an extra weekend day to recover before heading back to the office Monday morning. Some have even taken action: Thousands of sleepyheads have signed a "We the People" petition to either do away with DST once and for all, or make it the year-round standard.
"The time clock may change with an easy click, but our body clock's adjustment is more complicated," sleep educator and Sleepy's consultant Nancy Rothstein said in a statement. "DST can challenge our sleep, health and even our safety by imposing an unnatural tweak to our internal clock."
This year's survey shows a 16 percent increase in people saying they'd favor the switch from a similar poll in 2011, perhaps a sign that, in the spirit of National Sleep Awareness Week, the general public is starting to recognize the importance of sufficient shuteye.
"It's nice to see people outside the discipline of sleep medicine recognizing the need for greater awareness of some of the consequences of Daylight Saving Time," says Michael Decker, Ph.D., an associate professor at Georgia State University and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "I think it's a terrific idea."
Springing forward at 2:00 a.m. Saturday would mean two mornings before a workday commute and fewer drowsy drivers on the road, not to mention fewer exhausted attempts at making the schoolbus, he says: "There are tremendous numbers of sleepy children those couple of days after Daylight Saving Time kicks in, and think about what that does to diminish their learning abilities! Why wouldn't we want to do this?"
There seems to be no real reason why DST starts early Sunday, says Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute. "It typically takes about one day to shift our circadian clocks one hour," he says, "so if we do all the right things [and move Daylight Saving Time] we are going to set ourselves up to feel just fine on Monday morning."
"There's no reasons from a sleep standpoint or a business standpoint that I can think of that would say that this is not a good idea," Oexman says. "We might have to change some programming that changes calendars and clocks around the world, but we handled Y2K just fine!"
However, as tempting as it might be to sleep extra late this weekend to make up for the lost hour, experts advise against it. "We need to be especially diligent with sleep hygiene," says Oexman, since sleeping late Sunday or taking a nap in the afternoon can just make it harder to fall asleep Sunday night and harder to make it to work on time Monday morning. Some would likely still experience the "Monday morning blues" thanks to a weekend on a different sleep schedule, says Dr. Matthew D. Mingrone, lead physician for EOS Sleep California centers. "But giving the body clock an extra 24 to 48 hours to adjust would be a great idea," he says.
While a change may never come, at the very least, greater awareness will move us in the right direction. But, it seems there's no denying Daylight Saving Time's increasing insignificance. As Gizmodo so succinctly put it: "A century ago, we didn't have data to tell us whether DST made a real measurable impact; it was acceptable to run with it because, for all we knew, it was useful. Now, we know better."