It's always a bit of a thrill to get that extra hour of sleep in the fall when the clocks turn back…but I'm always really bitter in the spring when the clock jumps ahead.
Unfortunately, shifting the clock doesn't simply lead to my personal disgruntlement; losing that hour of sleep can mess with the human body, which can in turn make driving the day after "springing forward" a dicey situation. I
n fact, according to a study done at McMaster University entitled "Sleep Deficit, Fatal Accidents and the Spring Shift to Daylight Savings Time", traffic accidents increased by 17% on the Monday after Daylight Savings Time (compared to an average Monday).
Disrupting our circadian rhythms can lead to slower reflexes and poorer decision-making ability - not great when you're commuting. So what can you do about it? Well, you can't control the other drivers on the road, but here are a few tips to help you stay alert after DST this weekend.
Go to bed early all weekend. Start going to bed early on the Friday and Saturday before Daylight Savings Time kicks in - it will help your body adjust sooner.
Telecommute. If you have the option to telecommute, the Monday after Daylight Savings Time is the time to do it. Enjoy a little more sleep and avoid potentially sleepy drivers going to and from the office.
Acknowledge that your body is out of whack and take a little extra time. Take a moment when you get into the car to really focus on the route you're about to take.
Cut down on in-car distractions. Consider leaving the music off and if you're a coffee drinker, enjoy that java before you leave the house or after you get to work - no sipping on the road!
Keep it cool. If it's warm in the car, you'll feel cozy…and drowsy. Keeping the car cooler will help you stay alert. Turn down the heat or open the window for a little fresh air.
Focus to AND from work. You might think that the most accidents happen in the morning following Daylight Savings Time but in fact, the majority of them happened on the afternoon commute home, when your lack of sleep may really be catching up with you. Again, if you drink coffee, a little caffeine before your drive home might benefit you on Monday - just be sure to give the caffeine 30 minutes to enter your bloodstream. Take a moment before leaving work to relax and focus on that drive home.
Bring the right eyewear. You may have been heading home in twilight the last few weeks and with the time change, the day will still be bright. Make sure to have your sunglasses on hand, particularly if you're driving west.
Apparently it can take as long as two weeks for our bodies to adjust to the change in time - so be sure to keep tabs on your fatigue and avoid driving when sleepy.
Do you have any post-Daylight Savings Time "getting back to normal" rituals? Share them in the comments! And be safe out there on Monday!
- Rose R.