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Daylight Saving: Suggestions to help workers adapt to the time change

Posted on by Claire Caruso, PhD, RN, FAAN

 

DaylightSavingsTimeWebSpring forward Fall back.

We all know the saying to help us remember to adjust our clocks for the daylight saving time changes (this Sunday in case you are wondering). But, what can we do to help workers adjust to the effects of the time change?  A few studies have examined these issues but many questions remain on this topic including the best strategies to cope with the time changes.

By moving the clocks ahead one hour in the Spring, we lose one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour earlier. This pushes most people to have a one hour earlier bedtime and wake up time. In the Fall, time moves back one hour.  We  gain one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour later thereby pushing most people to have a one hour later bedtime and wake up time.

It can take about one week for the body to adjust the new times for sleeping, eating, and activity (Harrision, 2013). Until they have adjusted, people can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at the right time. This can lead to sleep deprivation and reduction in performance, increasing the risk for mistakes including vehicle crashes. Workers can experience somewhat higher risks to both their health and safety after the time changes (Harrison, 2013). A study by Kirchberger and colleagues (2015) reported men and persons with heart disease may be at higher risk for a heart attack during the week after the time changes in the Spring and Fall.

The reason for these problems is thought to be disruption to circadian rhythms and sleep. Circadian rhythms are daily cycles of numerous hormones and other body functions that prepare us for the expected times for sleeping, eating, and activity. Circadian rhythms have difficulty adjusting to an abrupt one hour time change.

Other hazards for workers related to the time change in the Fall include a sudden change in the driving conditions in the late afternoon rush hour– from driving home from work during daylight hours to driving home in darkness. People may not have changed their driving habits to nighttime driving and might be at somewhat higher risk for a vehicle crash. Additionally, the Spring time change leads to more daylight in the evening which may disturb some people’s sleep.

To help reduce risks about one and a half weeks before the time changes in the Fall and Spring, employers can relay these points to help their workers.

  • Remind workers that several days after the time changes are associated with somewhat higher health and safety risks due to disturbances to circadian rhythms and sleep.
  • It can take one week for the body to adjust sleep times and circadian rhythms to the time change so consider reducing demanding physical and mental tasks as much as possible that week to allow oneself time to adjust.
  • Remind workers to be especially vigilant while driving, at work, and at home to protect themselves since others around them may be sleepier and at risk for making an error that can cause a vehicle crash or other accident.
  • Research found men and people with existing heart disease may be at risk for a heart attack after the time change.
  • Workers can improve their adaptation to the time change by using these suggestions (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2013). Circadian rhythms and sleep are strongly influenced by several factors including timing of exposure to light and darkness, times of eating and exercise, and time of work. One way to help the body adjust is to gradually change the times for sleep, eating, and activity.
    • For the Spring time change, starting about three days before, one can gradually move up the timing of wakening and bedtime, meals, exercise, and exposure to light earlier by 15 – 20 minutes each day until these are in line with the new time. About one hour before bedtime, keep the lights dim and avoid electronic lit screens on computers, tablets, etc. to help the body move earlier the time it is ready to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night.
    • For the Fall time change, starting about three days before, one can gradually move the timing of wakening and bedtime, meals, exercise, and exposure to light later by 15 – 20 minutes each day until these are in line with the new time. About 1 hour after awakening in the morning, you can keep the lights dim and avoid electronic lit screens on computers, tablets, and so forth can help the body move to a later time that it is ready to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night.
    • Being sleep deprived before the time change will increase the health and safety risks so make it a priority to get enough sleep and be well rested several days before the time change.

Does the Time Change Effect Everyone Equally?

In short, no. People who sleep seven or less hours per day tend to have more problems with the time changes (Harrison, 2013). Additionally, a person’s natural tendency to get up early and go to bed early or get up late and go to bed late may also influence their ability to adjust to the one hour time changes in the Spring and Fall (Adan et al., 2012; Harrison, 2013). Those prone to naturally follow an “early to bed and early to rise” pattern (morningness) will tend to have more difficulties adjusting to the Fall time change because this goes against their natural tenancies. Conversely, those who naturally follow a “late to bed and late to rise” routine (eveningness) will tend to have more trouble with the Spring time change.

Morningness/eveningness tends to change as people age. Teenagers and young adults tend to be “evening” types, and researchers theorize this may be due to brain and body development at those ages. Younger workers therefore may have more difficulty adjusting to the Spring time change (Medina et al., 2015). Morningness increases as people age, so older adults tend to be “morning” types. As a result, older workers may have more trouble adjusting to the Fall time change. Finally, people who are on the extreme end of the eveningness or the morningness trait may tend to have more trouble adjusting their sleep to the time changes.

The online training program “NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours” has many suggestions for coping with various types of work schedules and improving sleep. Although it was designed for nurses, the information is relevant to many occupations. Part 1, Module 2 gives information about sleep and circadian rhythms and Module 4 discusses individual differences. In Part 2, Module 6 gives suggestions for improving sleep.

How have you dealt with the time change in the past? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Claire Caruso, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dr. Caruso is a research health scientist in the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology.

 

References

 

Adan A, Archer SN, Hidalgo MP, Di ML, Natale V, Randler C [2012]. Circadian typology: a comprehensive review. Chronobiol Intl 29: 1153-1175.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine [2013]. Minimizing the effect of daylight saving time by adjusting your sleep schedule. http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=3732

Harrison Y [2013]. The impact of daylight saving time on sleep and related behaviors. Sleep Med Rev. 17(4):285-92.

Kirchberger I, Wolf K, Heier M, Kuch B, von Scheidt W, Peters A, Meisinger C [2015]. Are daylight saving time transitions associated with changes in myocardial infarction incidence? Results from the German MONICA/KORA Myocardial Infarction Registry. BMC Public Health. 14;15(1):778.

Posted on by Claire Caruso, PhD, RN, FAAN

13 comments on “Daylight Saving: Suggestions to help workers adapt to the time change”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    I was corrected on this years ago and wanted to pass it along. DST stands for Daylight Saving Time (no “s” on the middle word). It would be like the term ‘cost cutting measure’ where you could also use a hyphen between ‘cost’ and ‘cutting’ as in ‘cost-cutting measure’. Daylight Saving Time is like a title so I suppose that’s why it doesn’t use the hyphen.

    Has the Dept of Transportation done any analysis on number of increases or decreases of pedestrian being killed or injured during the time change periods, particularly during fall change? Why we still have daylight saving time changes in most states is dumbfounding. We have lights now on tractors for our farmers.

    Reply to comment. In 2004, Coate and Markowitz published The effects of daylight and daylight saving time on US pedestrian fatalities and motor vehicle occupant fatalities. They analyzed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created FARS which is a nationwide census of fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle traffic crashes. To see the article, click link below.
    Coate D, Markowitz S. 2004. The effects of daylight and daylight saving time on US pedestrian fatalities and motor vehicle occupant fatalities. Accid Anal Prev. 2004 May;36(3):351-7.

    Morningness/eveningness tends to change as people age.

    This line you mentioned is real true even the one who created those morningness/eveningness done for this official purpose

    I am a 60 years ,and have always been a very late sleeper ,no matter what, I have seen alot of older people go to sleep early,why isn’t that with me ?;and also I don’t like to go to sleep early, I truly wish I could be a morning person, ,I have tried to stay awake in the mornings,and by 10 am ,I start feeling sleepy, so I fall asleep, whats wrong with me??

    Reply to comment. NIOSH training for nurses on shift work and long work hours has general information about sleep that might help. In Part 1, Module 2 explains how our sleep system helps us get up and go to sleep at certain times during the day and Module 4, page 3 gives some information about the morningness and eveningness trait. In Part 2, Module 6 discusses good sleep practices and Module 8 discusses strategies to wake up earlier. A sleep disorders specialist would give an individual with sleep complaints an assessment and suggest treatment strategies tailored for his/her particular situation. To find a certified sleep disorders center and sleep disorders specialists in your area, click this link http://www.sleepeducation.org/find-a-facility.

    When I was younger, my teachers would allow me to nap during recess to adjust to the time change. Now, I am 45 years old and still struggle with time change. I feel like I have been robbed an hour of sleep that I can’t recoup. This morning if it wasn’t for my husband telling me not to go back to sleep before leaving I could of easily overslept for work. I HATE time change and don’t see no real importance in it. Just leave it alone.

    Persons having trouble getting up early enough after the Spring time change can try this strategy: for a few days use bright light in the morning and dim light in the evening.

    • In the first hour after awakening while you are getting ready for work, be in brightly lit areas. If the sun has risen, you can eat your breakfast in a sunlit area. Do not look directly at the light source.

    • In the evening, about 1.5 to 2 hours before you need to go to sleep, use only dim light or wear dark sunglasses to prevent light from shifting your circadian rhythms to later bedtimes and wake-up times, which is not what you want. Circadian rhythms are daily rhythms in our body that help us get up in the morning and go to sleep at night. Remember to avoid electronic screens on computers, tablets, and cell phones during this time also. During the hour or so before bedtime, exposure to light in the blue spectrum from these devices tend to push our bodies to stay awake later into the evening and to get up later in the morning. The clock in our brain is sensitive to the type of light that these devices give off.

    • Allow enough time to get the amount of sleep you need. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours sleep each day.

    • Over the course of a few days, your body should shift its circadian rhythms so that you begin to wake up earlier and get sleepy and ready for bed earlier in the evening.

    • For more information, see NIOSH training for nurses on shift work and long work hours. In Part 1, Module 2 discusses how our sleep system works. This basic information is the basis for strategies to help our bodies get ready to sleep and wake up at times that are better matches for our work schedules and other personal responsibilities. In Part 2, Modules 6 discusses good sleep habits and Module 8 discusses strategies to better adjust sleep schedules to early daytime work schedules.

    Hm .. “Morningness/eveningness tends to change as people age.”

    I didn’t see the part where you explain how to match sleep cycles when one has teenagers at home and you’re older parents! No offense, but good luck with that!

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