Daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. this Sunday, meaning it’s once again time to “spring forward” and set the clocks ahead one hour. The time change, which costs you an hour of sleep, can impact your circadian rhythm, cause you to be sleepier on your Monday morning commute, and thus, affect road safety. It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with the time change and to prepare accordingly.
Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep nearly double their risk of a crash. Drowsiness can slow reaction time, impair vision and judgment and delay the processing of information. It’s critical to take steps to prepare for the time change and be extremely cautious on the road in the days following the transition as you, and other drivers, reset your circadian rhythm.
To help prevent drowsy driving and stay safe on the road following the time change, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation offers the following tips:
- Start going to bed and waking up earlier than normal in the days prior to daylight saving time. This can help reset your circadian rhythm and cue your body to sleep earlier on Sunday; thus, helping to minimize sleep loss from the time change.
- Eat dinner earlier on Saturday. Our eating times are linked to our circadian rhythm, so try eating dinner an hour earlier on Saturday to help prime you for an earlier bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol on Saturday. Stimulants like caffeine and alcohol interfere with our circadian rhythm and may increase the number of times you wake up at night and decrease the quality of sleep you get, so it’s best to avoid them before the time change.
- Use light to help reset your circadian rhythm after the time change. Light is one of the main cues of time and strongly affects the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Expose yourself to bright lights when you wake up and during the day, especially in the late afternoon. Conversely, avoid bright lights at night. Dim bedroom lights, turn off the TV and put electronic devices away about an hour before you plan to go to bed.
- Prepare for a darker morning commute after the time change. Remember to turn on your car headlights in the morning following daylight saving time to make yourself more visible on the road. Also, slow down and increase your following distance to compensate for the limited visibility and reduced stopping time that may result from the darker commute.
- Avoid distractions while driving. Drink your coffee at home or at work, don’t take breakfast to go and save all of your calls for later (even if you have a hands-free device). Distracted driving limits your attention to the road and can put you at greater risk for an accident, especially if you’re also driving on less hours of sleep than you normally would.
If you are driving in the days following the time change and begin to notice yourself losing focus, yawning, drifting out of your lane or notice your eyelids becoming heavy, you may be too tired to drive and should find a safe place to pull over and rest until you are able to drive safely. For more driving-related safety tips, as well as advice on preventing slips, trips, falls and overexertions this spring, visit BeSafeOhio.com.
Delia Treaster, Ph.D., CPE, is the ergonomic technical adviser for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, Division of Safety & Hygiene