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Are Your Employees More at Risk After Daylight Savings Time?

March 7, 2019 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices

Written By: Gabrielle Purchon

Daylight savings time: some people love it, some people hate it, and some hardly notice it. But unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii, the clocks will Spring forward this weekend and give us that extra hour of evening sunshine.

While one hour doesn’t sound like a big change, there is mounting evidence that this disruption to our sleep cycles can have more of an impact than we might expect. Here’s what you can do to help your employees Spring forward – safely – this weekend.

Prioritize Workplace Safety

Workplace safety should always be a priority, but there may be even more cause to be cautious immediately following daylight savings time. A study analyzing over 20 years of data on American workers found a 5.7 percent increase in the number and severity of injuries on the Monday following the time change. Not only that, the amount of time off allotted for workplace injuries increased by 67.6 percent, meaning workers needed more time to recover from the injuries they sustained.

No matter the cause, any potential for an increase in workplace injuries should be taken seriously. Communicate the risks of sleep deprivation to your employees and encourage them to use their best judgment when on the job. If they’re not up to the task, make sure they know it’s ok to say so.

The authors of the study also suggest a few ways to help your employees stay safe after the shift:

  • Exercise additional safety precautions the week following daylight savings.
  • Allow employees to shift their schedules 30-45 minutes later on Monday and Tuesday. This can help them ease into the time change or provide them with resources to help them adjust earlier.
  • Avoid scheduling hazardous work at the beginning of the week or postpone until employees have had a chance to adjust.

Tell Commuters to be Cautious

Although further research is needed, some studies have indicated an increase in the number of fatal car accidents that occur on the Monday following daylight savings time. Make sure your employees can get to work safely by:

  • Advising them to be extra vigilant while on the road and to only drive if they feel it’s safe.
  • Providing educational resources about the potential risks of driving while sleep deprived.
  • Allowing those who can to work from home.
  • Encouraging employees to use public transportation or ride share services.

Be Prepared for Health Emergencies

For those living with chronic conditions, a sudden change in circadian rhythm may have very serious consequences. Research in Finland revealed that the overall rate of stroke increased 8 percent during the two days following daylight savings, but for those at-risk, the jump was much higher. For people with cancer, the likelihood of a stroke increased 25 percent after daylight savings time, higher than during any other time of year. Not only that, adults over 65 were 20 percent more likely to have a stroke right after the time change.

The risk appears to be higher for other heart conditions as well. One study of hospital admissions in Michigan found that on the Monday following daylight savings, there were 25 percent more heart attack cases.

While further research is needed to determine whether these correlations apply to the broader population, they suggest that people can be very sensitive to disruptions in their sleep-wake cycle.

Help your employees avoid serious health consequences by spreading awareness about heart health and encourage healthy sleeping habits. Prevention is always best, but provide resources that help employees recognize the symptoms of a stroke or the warning signs of a heart attack so anyone in need can get medical attention right away.

Tips to Help Your Employees Feel Rested During Daylight Savings Time

Even your employees who aren’t at risk for more serious health concerns will still be feeling the effects of the time change. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact your people’s moods and productivity. Here are a few things to keep in mind so everyone can wake up feeling great.

  • Starting a few days before the clocks change, hit the hay 15 to 20 minutes earlier than your usual bedtime. This helps your body gradually adjust to the time change so Sunday won’t feel like a shock to the system.
  • Forgot about daylight savings until the last minute? The National Sleep Foundation recommends simply going to bed earlier the night before to make up for any lost sleep the next morning. Be sure to darken your room, put your electronics on do not disturb and follow your regular nightly routine to help trick your body into thinking it’s time for bed.
  • When you wake up on Sunday, open those curtains or step outside to expose yourself to some natural sunlight first thing in the morning. If there’s no natural light when you wake up, simply turn on all the lights. When our brains sense light, it tells our body to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall and stay asleep. By exposing yourself to light right when you wake up, you’ll help readjust your circadian rhythm and feel more awake.
  • Avoid any further disruptions to your internal clock by sticking to your regular schedule as much as possible. Try to eat within an hour of when you normally do, avoid over-caffeinating and exercise at the same time as usual.

Whether the seasons are changing or not, encouraging healthy sleep habits in your organization should always be a priority. Our sleep toolkit will help your employees get the rest they need to perform their best. Check it out here!

About The Author

Gabrielle is the content marketing manager and strategist at Virgin Pulse. Her adventurous and food-seeking attitude has led her to jump out of planes and dine at one of the best restaurants in the world. But as someone who strives for balance, you can also find her enjoying quiet moments with a book or face planting in the sand come summer.

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