How Does the Clock Change Impact Our Roadways?
Daylight Saving Time: Spring Forward, Fall Back
In most of the United States, Daylight Saving time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. When you “spring forward” in March, clocks are set ahead by one hour at 2 am. When you “fall back” in November, clocks are set back by one hour at 2 am.
While the US Department of Transportation governs the use of Daylight Saving Time, states and territories (such as Arizona) can choose not to participate.
Even though the clock change is just an hour, it can affect your sleep and cause sleep disruptions and with that comes associated issues and dangers. The clock change is linked to public health and safety risks, including increased risk of heart attacks, mood disorders, and car crashes. For this reason, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that seasonal time changes and Daylight Saving Time should be eliminated in favor of a national standard time.
Why Does the Clock Change Impact Sleep?
You might be wondering why the clock change has such a severe impact on your sleep. When your sleep-wake schedule is shifted, as in the case with the clock change, your circadian rhythm is severely impacted. Circadian rhythms follow a 24-hour cycle. They are physical, mental, and behavioral processes that respond primarily to light and dark. One simple and relatable example of a light-related circadian rhythm is the typical fashion in which humans sleep at night and are awake during the day.
Our Roadways and the Clock Change
Drowsy driving is dangerous driving. A lack of sleep, caused by a time change, can affect thinking, decision-making, and alertness. As such, the number of car crashes spikes each year after Daylight Saving Time.
Whether you are driving a long or a short distance, be extra cautious when driving the week after a time change. First and foremost, always make sure you are alert before getting behind the wheel. If you feel sleep deprived, consider alternate modes of transportation. If you notice that you are drowsy while driving, pull over and take action. You could grab a 20 minute nap or drink a caffeinated beverage. Frequent blinking, heavy eyelids, drifting thoughts, and repeated yawning are all signs of drowsiness and that it is time to pull over.
What Can I Do to Prepare for the Clock Change?
The dates of the clock change are available to view online for future years, allowing you to plan ahead. Here are some simple steps to promote better sleep and prepare yourself for a clock change.
- Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation to help assure you will get a good night’s sleep.
- Set your clock in advance the night before so that you are prepared for the time change on Sunday and can start adapting as soon as you wake up.
- Make sure you get natural daylight exposure, especially in the morning, to help your internal clock adjust. Try to go outside on Sunday after the time change.
- Slowly adjust your schedule the week before the clock change. Adjust your meals as well as your exercise and sleep schedule incrementally each day leading up to the clock change.
- Prioritize Sleep and nap if needed. A short nap of 20 – 30 minutes early in the day may help boost your alertness and combat daytime sleepiness.
The National Sleep Foundation holds Drowsy Driving Prevention Week ® (DDPW) each year the week following the end of Daylight Saving Time.