Daylight Savings Time: Preparing for the Clocks to Spring Forward

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established a standardized approach for Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the United States and its territories. DST begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November each year. There is legislation passed by the U.S. Senate to make DST permanent, but it still must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the President. This year, DST will be on March 12th.

With the sudden time change in March, there is less light in the mornings and more in the evenings. Waking up in the dark causes our brains to think that it's still nighttime, signaling our bodies to continue sleeping. This often results in feeling groggy and less alert after we get up. On the contrary, more sunlight in the evenings signals our brains to stay awake, causing a delay in us getting to sleep at night. The result from this disruption is less sleep.

Note: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that we get at least 7 hours of sleep at night to maintain a healthy body and mind. 

The Negative Health and Safety Effects of Disrupted and/or Inadequate Sleep:

  • Increased stress and a negative impact on mental health
  • Increased risk for heart attacks
  • An increased risk of motor vehicle accidents during the week following the time change
  • An increased risk in work-related critical events such as risk behaviors, near misses and accidents have been reported in the days following the time change

Steps to Minimize the Impact of DST

While DST can present negative effects, there are practical steps that can be taken to minimize its impact. 

  • Attempt to get to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each night for 3-4 prior to the time change.
  • Eat dinner earlier in the evenings leading up to the time change.
  • The evening before DST begins, be sure to set your clock forward one hour (some clocks automatically account for DST).
  • Set your alarm 10-15 minutes earlier on the first workday of DST to allow for slightly longer commutes in dark conditions. 
  • Prepare for work the evening before DST, like setting out your clothes and packing your lunch. 
  • Avoid driving or operating machinery for at least one hour after you get up. DST may increase your reaction time and decrease your alertness. 

Keep in mind that it may take several days (or perhaps a full week) to fully adjust to the time change.