Health and safety: turning back the clock!
Time Change and Your Health
Hurray, you just got back one hour of sleep!
As we do every Fall, we recently turned back the clock to align ourselves with Standard Time. But what does this have to do with Health and Safety, you may be wondering…
Well, changing the time has an impact on our biological clock and some may feel it physically. Also, some people have a hard time when the sun sets very early (i.e. around 4:15 p.m. in mid-December) because the lack of daylight can provoke several problems such as seasonal depression.
Additionally, the reduction of the number of hours of sunlight can negatively impact security on roads. Risks of accidents are much higher when on drives back home in the dark after an intense workday without exposure to natural light. But, there are several things one can do to counter these effects.
To start, light is the strongest sleep synchronizer because it acts on our sleep hormone, melatonin. Secreted by our brain, melatonin promotes sleep: when the level of light goes down at the end of the day, melatonin production increases. That’s what brings on the desire to go lie down: we yawn, we stretch, our eyes itch… During the night, our brain gradually winds down melatonin secretion to almost nothing, to help us wake.
→ Do: try to expose yourself to sunlight starting in the morning and during the day.
→ Avoid: exposing yourself to TV or to screens (computer, table, smartphone) because the blue light they emit disrupts sleep and counteracts the production of melatonin.
Physical activity is also a good way to “synchronize” your internal clock. Being active during the day and calm at night allows your organism to better manage the time change. As well, practising sports is relaxing and reduces stress.
→ Do: regularly practise a physical activity to improve sleep and better deal with time change.
→ Avoid: practising sports late, near bedtime as this could put your brain on standby and make it harder to fall asleep.
Finally, temperature also plays a role in sleep/wake synchronization. Our internal clock acts like a thermostat: body temperature will fluctuate during the day, with a peak at 5 p.m. and a low between 3 to 5 a.m. When body temperature decreases, the desire to sleep increases.
→ Do: To synchronize your internal clock after the time change, it is useful to set your room temperature to about 19 °C to foster sleep quality. Cold feet and hands send an alert signal to the brain, that will increase the production of heat in the body and therefore delay falling asleep. We advise you to wear socks at night to keep your feet warm and help keep the body at the right temperature.
→ Avoid: Raising your body temperature by taking hot baths or practising sports just before bed as this will make falling asleep difficult.
Western societies decided to change the time at the end of the 19th century, but this practice was only implemented in the 1920s in North America.
Originally, there were two main reasons:
- Extension of summer leisure time: by advancing the clock by one hour in the spring, we gain an hour of sunlight in the evening.
- Energy Savings: Since we rarely “rise with the sun,” the time change provides an additional hour during which we don’t need to turn on the lights, thus reducing our consumption of electricity.
Regardless of what you may think, time change is likely here to stay! Simply follow our advice and the change won’t have a negative impact on you!
Manager, Health and Safety