It's that time of year again. Although it was chilly this morning in West Roxbury, the birds are singing, the daffodils are sending up their thick green leaves, and it's time to change the clocks again.
That's right, Spring Forward tonight, it's Daylight Saving Time. Although it doesn't really save us anything, and can actually cause our electric and heating bills to go up for the first few weeks. According to a 2008 study that examined billing data in Indiana before and after that state adopted DST in 2006, "DST increased overall residential electricity consumption between 1 and 4 percent, due mostly to extra afternoon cooling and extra morning heating; the main increases came in the fall. The overall annual cost of DST to Indiana households was estimated to be $9 million, with an additional $1.7–5.5 million for social costs due to increased pollution.
According to a Huffington Post article:
This time change is much trickier for our bodies to handle than when we "fall back" in November. That's because so many of us aren't getting enough shut-eye to begin with, and being robbed of an additional hour can put us over the edge. In fact, as many as 47 million people are sleep deprived and 43 percent of Americans say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep during the week.
"It's hard to get up an hour earlier," Dr. Sam J. Sugar, director of sleep services at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, a wellness spa and weight-loss program in Miami, Fla told The Huffington Post. "When we do, since most of us don't sleep the recommended seven or eight hours anyhow, another hour less is not good for us, and we wind up fatigued and tired during the next day."
Much like traveling between time zones, the changing of the clocks requires our bodies to adjust to a new sleep and wake schedule that feels similar to jet lag. "Our internal clocks, which run on a more or less 24-hour cycle -- that clock is suddenly confused," Sugar said.
And, just like traveling east is more difficult to adjust to than traveling west, so too is "springing forward" compared to "falling back" explains Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, a laboratory of sorts that examines the impact that environment, behavior and sleep equipment have on sleep quality. Because our normal circadian rhythm is slightly longer than 24 hours, it's easier on us to extend the day, like we do in the fall, rather than cut the day short by an hour as we do this weekend, he said.
While adjusting to this slightly-altered cycle can take up to a week, for most people, it will only take a few days, said Sugar. "Our brains are incredibly good at adjusting to anything we throw at them, and for almost everybody it isn't a problem," he said.
While only about 1 percent of drivers crash because of drowsiness each year, that equals a total of 1.9 million drivers, according to the National Sleep Foundation. More than half of all drivers have driven at least once in the past year while feeling sleepy, and 28 percent do at least once a month.
In the days after the shift, heart attacks are also more common. The effects of sleep deprivation on the heart are well-documented: Skimping on zzz's can promote the buildup in arteries that leads to heart attacks and strokes, as well as increase the risk of high blood pressure and inflammation. Plus, the most sleep-deprived people often weigh more, increasing their risk for heart problems even before the time change.
Workers also report more injuries on the job the Monday after the beginning of daylight saving time. And while it might do more harm to our employers than to our own bodies, the day is also witness to a dramatic increase in what's come to be known as "cyberloafing" -- or wasting time on the Internet, according to a recent study that examines the link between lack of sleep and decreased productivity.
So, don't forget, 2 a.m. becomes 3 a.m. tonight.