According to a study by Ron B. Postuma, MD, MSc, a member of the American Academy of Neurology, sleep plays an crucial part in keeping up overall wellbeing, good disposition, cognition, work execution, and social movement, and it is impacted by the circadian cadence, the inside clock that controls body forms. “The good news is that the sleep disruptions we observed following the change to standard time were brief and no longer evident two weeks after the shift,” he said.

The study included 30,097 individuals, ages 45 to 85, who completed a survey about sleep duration and satisfaction, ability to fall asleep, capacity to stay sleeping and intemperate sleepiness during the day. Questions consisted of, “Over the last month, how often did it take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep?” and “Over the last month, how often did you wake in the middle of the night or too early in the morning and found it difficult to fall asleep again?” Those whose response was three or more times a week to either of these questions were considered to have sleep issues.

For the transition to autumn standard time, the researchers compared the questionnaire filled out a week before the transition with those filled out a week later. After adjusting for age, gender and location, they found that those who finished the questionnaire a week after the shift had a 34% higher risk of insomnia, with 28% reporting insomnia, compared to 23% of those surveyed the week before. After one week, those who completed the survey were also more than twice as likely to fall asleep, 64 per cent more likely to fall asleep, and twice as likely to experience excessive sleepiness while awake.

In connection with the transition to daylight saving time in spring, the researchers compared those who completed the survey a week before the change with those who answered the survey a week later. They found no difference in sleep disturbances. However, they found that sleep duration decreased by nine minutes after one week of switching.

 The researchers looked at when participants completed the survey: spring, summer, autumn, or winter. Although they found no difference in sleep disturbance, they did find a minor difference in sleep duration. In the summer, the respondents to the survey had the shortest sleep duration, an average of 6.76 hours per day. In winter, the survey respondents had the longest sleep time, an average of 6.84 hours per day, which means the difference is five minutes. 

 “As disruptive as these transitions may feel in the short term, there may be few long-term implications of the repeated switch back and forth from daylight saving time to standard time,” said Postuma. But, previous studies have linked the transitions to and from daylight saving time with higher accident rates and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Future studies are needed that follow people over time, including people who live in places with different light exposure and seasonal changes.

 The study’s limitation was that it only comprised middle-aged and older adults, and outcomes may not be similar for younger adults.  The study was financed by the Canadian Institute for Health Research.

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