Like clockwork: Time changes cause problems

  • Saturday, October 30, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion

Be extra cautious when you “fall back” on Nov. 7. That’s the date we must set our clocks back one hour in honor of daylight savings time. But watch out.

The jarring shift to our daily sleep patterns and routines each Fall — and each Spring — is linked to an increase in heart attacks, strokes or automobile accidents, according to Business Insider. In the Spring, when our clocks “spring forward,” hospitals report a 24% spike in heart-attack visits around the U.S. After the time change, groggy drivers are also more likely to rub fenders with other groggy drivers. In fact, researchers estimate that car crashes caused by sleepy daylight-savings-time drivers likely cost 30 extra people their lives every year over the nine-year period from 2002-11, reports Business Insider.

“That’s how fragile and susceptible your body is to even just one hour of lost sleep,” sleep expert Matthew Walker, author of “How We Sleep,” told Insider.

The reverse happens in the Fall when clocks are set back one hour. Heart attack visits to hospitals drop by 21% — but pedestrian deaths increase. According to NBC News, “pedestrians walking during the evening rush hour are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars than before the time change.…” Two Carnegie Mellon University researchers explain that the increase in pedestrian accidents is due to people having difficulty adjusting to the sudden darkness that comes one hour earlier.

I’m no fan of daylight savings time, but starting Nov. 7 I hope to take advantage of the extra hour of morning daylight. I’ve long dreamt of becoming a morning person. I’ve dreamt of having a very healthy sleep cycle the way morning people do — waking early and refreshed from a good night’s sleep after going to bed at a decent hour the night before. But morning — which begins way too early — has always held me back.

The evening has held me back, too. It goes by way too fast, causing me to stretch it out into the wee hours. That’s why I’m groggy and moody in the morning. People know it’s best to not even look in my direction until two cups of coffee — and a couple shots of espresso — have been downed.

Regrettably, morning people and I have been at odds for years. They’re giddy and chatty before the sun comes up, whereas I’m surly and removed. If daylight savings time legislation is the law of the land, then giddiness and chattiness should be outlawed before 10 a.m.

But I am trying to make better use of my mornings. I am not alone. Because millions have been working from home due to the pandemic, a lot of people are struggling to regain their “morning mojo.” The Wall Street Journal interviewed sleep and productivity experts to share some tips.

In a nutshell, you have to will yourself to become a better morning person by turning-in early — 10 p.m. is best — and rising at 5:30 a.m. That gives you time to ease into the day with coffee, a walk or a bike ride or any other healthy activity. Plus, exposure to morning sunlight helps you to reset your circadian rhythm.

After two weeks of such clean living, the experts promise, you will own your mornings and be more rested and productive than you have ever been. At least until March, when the clocks spring forward and your sleep mornings will be screwed up all over again.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.

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