burnout in healthcare

The Darkside of Daylight Savings Time

The time has come again: the clocks spring forward an hour, and we lose an hour of sleep. Daylight savings time is a bi-annual practice that has been in place for more than one hundred years, intended to save energy and extend daylight hours during the summer months. However, recent studies suggest that daylight savings time may negatively affect our health.

In this blog, we will explore the negative effects of daylight savings time on employee health and productivity and the importance of addressing these effects in the workplace.


Negative Impact of DST on Health and Safety

The circadian rhythm is the natural 24-hour internal clock that controls our body’s various physiological and behavioral processes, including the sleep-wake cycle, hormone secretion, temperature, and metabolism. Circadian rhythm changes cause us to wake up earlier than usual and go to bed later than usual, meaning less sleep overall.

In fact, daylight savings time can lead to a loss of one hour per night for up-to-three weeks after it begins. Although it may appear insignificant, it can result in several adverse consequences. An irregular sleep pattern can not only reduce productivity during work hours but also give rise to various mental, emotional, and physical health issues in the long run. Now, let’s examine the negative effects of daylight savings time in greater detail.

1. Sleep Deprivation

The sudden change in time leads to sleep deprivation, leaving people groggy and disoriented. In a 2019 American Academy of Sleep Medicine survey, more than half of the respondents (55%) said they experienced high to moderate levels of tiredness subsequent to the time change. Sleep deprivation significantly impacts employee health, causing fatigue, irritability, and a weakened immune system. It can also lead to the exacerbation of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. A 2017 research discovered that the DST shift led to an 11% increase in depression-related hospitalizations.

2. Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Research has shown that daylight savings time may also harm our cardiovascular health. A study revealed a 24% surge in heart attacks occurring on the day following the start of Daylight-Saving Time. This increased risk is due to the sudden change in sleep patterns, which can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.  In addition, research indicates that an imbalanced circadian rhythm can contribute to a higher incidence of obesity due to a slower metabolism and changes in appetite.

3. Decreased Concentration and Cognitive Functioning

For some individuals, the dim morning hours can make it challenging to wake up feeling energized and motivated to start the day. As a result, this affects their productivity. Moreover, it can lead to decreased concentration and cognitive functioning, making it difficult for employees to focus on tasks and make decisions. It can lead to errors, missed deadlines, and decreased overall productivity.


4. Higher Incidence of Workplace Accidents

Lack of sleep can also contribute to a greater risk of workplace accidents. Fatigue and decreased cognitive functioning can cause employees to make errors and be more prone to accidents, particularly in industries that require alertness and focus, such as healthcare, transportation, or manufacturing. Workplace accidents can result in injury or even death, leading to lawsuits, lost productivity, and increased healthcare costs.

Addressing the Negative Effects of Daylight Savings Time in the Workplace

Employers can take steps to address the negative effects of daylight savings time on employee health and productivity. Knowing how time changes may affect employees is an integral part of establishing a comprehensive workplace safety program. Here are some suggestions:

1. Flexible Work Hours

One solution to address the adverse consequences of daylight savings time is to implement flexible work hours during the week following the time change. This step will allow employees to adjust their schedules and get enough rest. Employers can also encourage employees to prioritize sleep and provide resources for improving sleep hygiene. For example, employers can provide information on creating a sleep-conducive environment, such as reducing noise and light in the bedroom and avoiding electronic devices before bedtime.

2. Encourage More Breaks

Encouraging more breaks throughout the day can help employees stay alert and refreshed. This strategy could include short breaks to stretch or take a walk outside.

3. Allow Naps

Employers can allow employees to take short naps during the day to help combat fatigue and improve productivity.

4. Gradual Adjustment

Regularly inform employees about the shift a few weeks before the time change so they gradually adjust their sleep schedule. These reminders can help them transition more smoothly into the new schedule.

5. Fun and Engaging Activities

Employers can create fun and engaging activities to help employees stay alert and focused during the transition. This strategy could include synchronized stretching or icebreaker activities to promote team bonding and boost morale.

6. Open Feedback Culture

Encourage or create an open feedback culture so employers know their employees’ unique challenges during the transition. It can help employers tailor their approach to each individual employee’s needs.

7. Ease the Pressure

Employers can decrease the workload for the week following the time change to reduce stress and allow employees to adjust to the new schedule more easily.

8. Consider Remote Work

If applicable to your industry, consider implementing remote work. This step can help employees adjust to daylight savings time more easily, as they won’t have to worry about commuting and can adapt their schedules more easily.

It’s Time to Rethink “Springing Forward”!

Daylight savings time may seem like a harmless bi-annual tradition, but it can seriously affect employee health and productivity. It may be time for us to reconsider the practicality of Daylight Saving Time and instead support the implementation of a consistent, year-round national time that does not disturb our circadian rhythm.

Ignoring the negative effects of daylight savings time can have consequences for both employees and employers. Employees who are tired and irritable are less likely to be productive or engaged in their work, leading to a decrease in overall productivity. Employers who disregard the implications of daylight savings time may also be at risk for workplace accidents, resulting in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs.

Let us prioritize the well-being of our employees to enable them to flourish, build resilience, and prevent burnout. Burnout prevention is an integral part of our programs at David Couper Consulting. Depending on your needs, we can tailor customized solutions to benefit your organization. Get in touch with us at info@davidcouperconsulting.com for more details.