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Beware of Springing Forward: How to Safely Adjust to Daylight Saving Time

New Yorkers will be losing an hour of sleep this weekend with the start of Daylight Saving Time (D.S.T.), and it could be drastically affecting their health.  

According to a study published in BMJ Journals, hospitals report a 24 percent spike in patients who suffer from heart-attacks on the Monday following the start of D.S.T. each year. Health experts report the average American loses about 40-minutes of sleep a night in the first few weeks of March. This drastic change in sleep patterns results in millions of individuals suffering from the dangerous effects of fatigue. Reports of patients with cardiovascular trouble, fatal motor vehicle accidents, and workplace injuries related to preventable errors, all experience a sudden uptick immediately after the start of D.S.T.  

This year, D.S.T. begins on Sunday, March 8. With an elevated risk for accidents and errors, it’s crucial that New Yorkers take extra precautions in the next few weeks to keep their families safe. These are a few recommendations from the experts to get you started.  

Avoid Fatigued Driving  

Drivers who experience fatigue related to D.S.T. can easily make errors that lead to serious and fatal traffic accidents. A study by Reuters Health found that every spring, fatal traffic accidents in the United States see at least a six percent spike after D.S.T. begins. This six percent is equivalent to nearly 30 American lives that might have been saved if the clocks had stayed the same.  

Driver fatigue is already a growing public safety concern plaguing our roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.) estimates that fatigued drivers are responsible for up to 6,000 crashes annually. Drowsy drivers experience impaired judgment, slowed reaction times, and can become distracted easily. Drivers experiencing extreme fatigue have reported episodes of falling asleep behind the wheel. In some instances, drivers have reported nodding off multiple times on longer commutes. 

The start of D.S.T. will bring darker mornings that can make it difficult for drivers to shake themselves awake. The National Safety Council (N.S.C.) reports the best way to prevent driver fatigue is to focus on a strict sleep schedule. Some suggestions for achieving this include:  

  • Try to get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.  
  • Stick to the same bedtime and wakeup schedule every day.  
  • Don’t stay up late in the first few weeks after D.S.T. to allow your body to adjust. 
  • Practice healthy sleeping habits, such as eliminating T.V., screens, snacks, or sugary drinks directly before bed.  

Chances are, every driver will experience fatigue in the days and weeks after D.S.T. begins. If you feel too tired to drive, stay off the road. If you are already behind the wheel when fatigue hits, pull over to rest to reduce your risk for an accident. For those who can use ridesharing options or public transportation, it may be a good idea to use these resources until you have fully adjusted to the time change.  

Practice Safety at Work 

Studies have shown that workplace injuries increase in both quantity and severity in the first week after D.S.T. begins. According to EHS Today, workers who lose an hour of sleep most often show up to work ‘groggy’ and ‘fuzzy’. At least 3.6 more injuries occur on the Monday following the time change compared to any other day of the year.  

Employers can prepare for the adverse effects of D.S.T. by increasing their efforts to prioritize safety. EHS Today encourages workplaces to educate their employees on the dangers of fatigue and the importance of following safety precautions on the job. Consider giving workers frequent breaks during the first few weeks after D.S.T. to increase alertness and concentration. Additionally, strictly enforcing policies that are meant to eliminate distractions can help to reduce preventable hazards leading to workplace accidents.  

Prioritize Your Heart Health 

D.S.T. can take a heavy toll on your heart health. The American Heart Association (A.H.A.) reports losing an hour of sleep increases a person’s risk for having a stroke by up to 8 percent during the first two days after the time change, while a person’s risk for having a heart attack increases by nearly 7 percent in the first three days.  

The A.H.A. reports the elevated risk for cardiovascular trouble related to D.S.T. is linked to the disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm— the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, multiple symptoms in the body are thrown off balance. The most significant risk is to people who have experienced issues with their heart health or who are considered high-risk for heart disease.  

A.H.A. encourages all Americans to closely monitor their heart health in the days following D.S.T. Talk to your doctor about your concerns with the time change and identify your risk for heart trouble due to lack of sleep. Prioritize your health over other tasks this week to keep your stress levels low and your heart beating strong.  

Keep Your Home Safe 

Springing the clocks forward is a perfect time to evaluate the other safety hazards in your home that need to be addressed on an annual basis. The N.S.C. recommends adding the following steps to your D.S.T. checklist to ensure your family starts spring off safely this year:  

  • Test and replace batteries on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. If you do not have these in your home, now is the time to purchase them.  
  • Create a Family Emergency Plan or update your current one.  
  • Remove unwanted and old medication from your home safely.  
  • Check your cleaning chemicals to make sure they are not expired. Make notes to notify family members of which ones cannot be mixed. 
  • Check your window frames, locks, and guards to ensure they are sturdy and in working condition.  

For more information on how to spring forward safely in 2020, click here for more.  

NYC Health and Safety Advocates and Accident Lawyers 

As NYC health and safety advocates, we believe it is important to stay informed about the issues that can put you and your family at risk. If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or illness due to negligence, our winning team of personal injury lawyers is here to fight for your rights. The law firm of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein has been successfully advocating for injured New Yorkers for over 60 years. Contact us for a free consultation to review your case and explore your options for justice.  

Sources 

Sandhu, Amneet. “Daylight savings time and myocardial infarction.” BMJ Journals. (Retrieved on March 5, 2020)https://openheart.bmj.com/content/1/1/e000019 

“Drowsy Driving.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Retrieved on March 5, 2020)https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drowsy-driving 

American Heart Association News. “Can daylight saving time hurt the heart? Prepare now for spring.” American Heart Association.  (Retrieved on March 5, 2020)https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/10/26/can-daylight-saving-time-hurt-the-heart-prepare-now-for-spring 

“Spring Forward and Review Your Safety Checklist.” National Safety Council.  

(Retrieved on March 5, 2020)https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/spring 

Rapaport, Lisa. “Fatal traffic crashes spike after switch to Daylight Saving Time.” Reuters. (Retrieved on March 5, 2020)https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-accidents-daylight-saving/fatal-traffic-crashes-spike-after-switch-to-daylight-saving-time-idUSKBN1ZT2W3 

Walter, Laura. “Study: Daylight Saving Time Connected to Increased Workplace Injuries.” EHS Today.(Retrieved on March 5, 2020) https://www.ehstoday.com/safety/article/21907644/study-daylight-saving-time-connected-to-increased-workplace-injuries