Kristen Douglas

The pitfalls of springing forward

As someone who really treasures sleep and getting as much shut eye as possible you could say I’m not looking forward to this coming weekend.

On Sunday, at 2 a.m., we will be turning the clocks ahead by one hour in an attempt to capture 60 more minutes of daylight.

While I do love the longer days, I don’t love the idea of less sleep and the turmoil my body goes through with having my sleep pattern altered.

When I was younger, I didn’t notice the impacts of time change as much but last year I was surprised to find that it took me a good long week to adjust to daylight savings time.

I was extremely groggy each day by about 2 p.m. and it was a challenge just to get through the day at work.

Which is why it doesn’t surprise me that there are studies out there that have found a link between the change to daylight savings time and an increase in traffic accidents.

An October, 2014 study out of the University of Colorado found that traffic-related fatalities rose by 17 per cent on the Monday after moving our clocks ahead one hour.

And in Sweden, a study in 2008 found a seven per cent increase in the incidence of heart attacks during the first three days following the switch to daylight savings time. Researchers attributed those findings, which were compiled over 20 years, to a lack of sleep.

While losing just one hour of sleep may not sound like a big deal and I’m sure most people turn their clocks ahead before they go to sleep on Saturday night without giving it a second thought there is some scientific explanation to back up these claims.

Daylight signals the brain to stop pumping out the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

So when daylight is extended, your body is awake and more alert for a longer period, making it difficult to get to sleep at a decent time, and therefore throwing off your sleep pattern.

And of course, with the arrival of daylight savings time, also comes the arrival of spring and summer which means more sun and an earlier sunrise, making it harder to sleep in and try to make up those lost hours of sleep the night before.

Which makes me wonder if daylight savings time is really necessary anymore. Summer brings longer daylight hours without having to turn the clocks ahead and the original reasons for springing ahead no longer really apply anymore.

Daylight savings time was first adopted by Germany in 1916 in order to conserve coal and fuel during World War I. Canada, the United States and Britain followed suit shortly after.

There are parts of Canada, however, that don’t spring forward, including some communities in B.C.’s Peace River Regional District that are on Mountain Time, northwestern Ontario, eastern parts of Quebec, parts of Nunavut and most of Saskatchewan.

In Alberta, NDP MLA Thomas Dang is expected to bring forward a bill to eliminate daylight savings time during that province’s spring sitting of the legislature which just got underway this week.

Dang has been collecting feedback from Albertans through an online survey and he has said the vast majority of respondents support shunning daylight savings time.

He said that farmers, in particular, are against changing the clocks because it has an adverse affect on their animals and their production as a result of altered feeding patterns.

I’m curious to see what becomes of Dang’s bill, if anything. Perhaps if the bill is passed, it will catch the eye of other provinces and open up a dialogue.

I’m not too sure we’ll ever really see the full abolishment of daylight savings time, but it is interesting to ponder and it’s important to look further into the potential impacts, particularly the negative ones, if there is indeed a true correlation.

If turning our clocks ahead by one hour truly is bad for our health, then I think it deserves a second look.