11 Ways Daylight Saving Time Will Mess Up Your Day

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on February 28, 2017Written by Anna Schaefer on February 28, 2017
healthy sleep and daylight savings time

You either hate it or love it — the “jump forward” that happens when we turn our clocks one hour ahead each spring. But one thing’s for certain: Daylight saving time (DST) has tangible effects on your life, and we don’t just mean catching more sunrises.

DST was created by Benjamin Franklin, but didn’t become commonplace until World War I. Since then, it’s undergone many changes, the latest in 2007, when then-President George W. Bush extended DST by four weeks, so that it would begin even earlier.

At 2 a.m. on March 12, or whenever you lay down for the night on the eve of DST, you’ll set your clock forward one hour and essentially “lose” that hour. While skipping one hour out of the 24 you get each day might not seem like a big deal, the effects can sometimes be felt for days.

1. It’s harder to wake up, even if you go to bed earlier

Even if you plan ahead for the adjustment and go to bed one hour earlier, it’ll be more difficult to rise and shine in the early weeks of DST. That’s because it’s dark when you’re waking up. Light is a major contributor to the functioning of our circadian rhythm, which controls our cycle of wake and sleep. Studies show that your circadian rhythm could care less what your clock says. It’s light that triggers cortisol, the hormone that’s released in the morning to energize and wake us. When the sun is rising later and you’re waking in the dark, your ancient biological system will not want to cooperate.

2. What time is it, really?

what time is it really

Maybe it’s on your microwave. Perhaps on your oven. It could even be the big clock in the living room that’s just a bit too out of reach to bother fiddling with. We all have that one time keeper that we neglect to update for DST. We say we’ll get to it later, but then it’s almost time for another time change, so why bother?

3. Tardiness becomes your new normal

Whether it’s because you can’t be bothered to change your clock, or you’re just so groggy you shut off your alarm instead of hitting the snooze button, there’s a good chance you’ll be running late in the first few dark DST mornings!

4. Morning blindness

No, you won’t actually go blind, but being unaccustomed to the sun hitting your face early in the morning, you may forget your sunglasses for your morning commute. And if you’ve ever been driving when the sun is in that sweet spot (too low for the car visor), you know what a pain this can be when you’re just waking up or driving home.

5. Speaking of driving, watch out for accidents!

Whether it’s because you’re not fully awake, or because all of the other drivers are groggy, you’re at a slightly greater risk of being involved in a car accident after moving your clocks forward. Researchers with Johns Hopkins and Stanford found that there’s a small but clear increase in deadly accidents on the Monday after the DST adjustment. Make sure you are extra careful on the road.

6. Your children may suffer …

You know DST is coming. You might dread it, but you’ve prepared as best you can. Your children, on the other hand, are less likely to take the change in stride. A 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that the now-earlier onset of DST adversely affects not just how much sleep adolescents get, but their attention spans, which could potentially impact their grades (and your sanity).

7. … which causes you to suffer

If the kids aren’t happy, no one is happy. If your child isn’t getting enough sleep (or their body isn’t convinced they’re getting enough), the whole house can be thrown into disarray. Moody kids make for moody parents.

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8. Being happy (or even nice) at work may be more difficult

It’s hard to be jovial when you’re tired, and the people who see you on a daily basis may notice. Researchers in Germany found that DST can have a negative impact on mood and life satisfaction for people who work full time. At least your co-workers will be in the same boat.

9. Productivity plummets

One of the perks of DST is you have more daylight after you get off of work. The sun is out for a little longer, which means you have extra time to do something fun or active outdoors. However, as your body adjusts to the change, the first part of your day — likely spent at work — will not be so productive.

Why you need 7 to 8 hours of sleep »

10. Forget getting to sleep at a decent hour

You’re trying to go to sleep, but your body is saying, “Hey, this is one hour too early!” Because it’s getting dark at a later hour, you’ll have trouble getting to sleep. And you know what that means …

11. It’s more difficult to get up

We mentioned this already, but the fact is, there are a few reasons that getting up in the morning is more difficult under DST. The fact that you’re probably going to bed later is just one more to add to the list.

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