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Is it Bad to Lose an Hour of Sleep?
Originally proposed by George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealander working after-hours as an entomologist and wanting extra daylight for his research, DST was first implemented in 1916 in Europe to divert precious fuel resources from lighting to the war effort. Thus was born a double-edged sword: the theft of an hour of sleep in exchange for longer summer evenings.
The Rumor: Daylight saving time is a good thing, healthwise — more sunlight!
As we inch towards the end of another long winter, a sliver of hope arrives in the form of a sliver of light. An extra hour of daylight — aka daylight saving time (DST) — is tacked on each year near the start of spring. Of course, that precious hour is stolen from the preceding night, but losing just one hour of sleep isn’t a big deal, right?
The Verdict: Losing an hour of sleep can hurt your health
Yes, losing even one hour of sleep can be tough on the human body. “It all depends on how sleep deprived you are to start with,” says clinical psychologist and upwave review-board member Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine. “If you’re getting enough sleep, it’s not going have a tremendous affect on you. However, if you’re already sleep deprived, losing an hour can have a significant effect.”
Sleep deprivation is considered a national health epidemic — according to the CDC, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder — so it’s safe to assume that many of us are adversely affected by DST. In fact, research has found that DST coincides with a spike in heart attacks, car accidents and workplace injuries, all of which can be brought on by sleepiness and the disruption of normal circadian rhythms. “I wish I could write a prescription for the day that everyone loses an hour of sleep — to go into work two hours late — because I think we would save a lot of lives,” says Breus.
So, it’s a good idea to approach DST with an advance plan to ensure a more healthful transition. Here are three tips to try:
1. Get in bed earlier. “Remember, sleep is not an on-off switch,” says Breus. “The average person takes 18 minutes to fall asleep. Allow yourself that time to relax in bed before sleep.”
2. The first morning after the time change, expose yourself to light soon after waking. This suppresses the production of the sleep-enhancing hormone melatonin, encouraging your mind to be alert and awake, says Breus.
3. DST creates a form of “social jet lag,” because time is magically added to or subtracted from our day. “It takes your body approximately one day per time zone crossed to accommodate for jet lag,” says Breus, “and that’s basically what we’re talking about here.” To acclimate to DST next year, start going to bed 20 minutes earlier than usual seven days before DST. Two days after that — five days before DST — go to sleep 20 minutes earlier than the previous night (you’ll be hitting the hay 40 minutes earlier than usual). Two days after that — three days before DST– go to sleep 20 minutes earlier than the night before. Once DST comes around, you’ll have already made up for the time lost!