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Time change can hurt more than our sleep patterns, experts say

Car accidents rise after daylight saving time begins

Car accidents are more prevalent in the days after daylight saving time begins, as people can suffer from microsleep and drift off while driving.
Car accidents are more prevalent in the days after daylight saving time begins, as people can suffer from microsleep and drift off while driving.

WESTON, Fla. – If you’re feeling sleep deprived after the switch to daylight saving time, experts say you’re not alone.

Data shows that moving the clock forward one hour can lead to sleep fragmentation and a delay in the ability to fall asleep at the usual time, creating an overall loss in sleep over the following week, even longer.

The cumulative effect goes beyond just being tired.

Recent research shows that in the days following the change to daylight saving time there is an increase in car accidents as a result of sleep deprivation and altered circadian rhythms.

When people are sleep deprived, even by an hour off their normal schedule, experts say there is an increased incidence of microsleep, where people suddenly fall asleep for 30 seconds at a time, without even realizing that it’s happening.

“The first thing is recognizing when you’re at highest risk and realizing this could be something quite dangerous. Obviously, if you’re falling asleep on the couch, that’s not so dangerous, but if you’re behind the wheel, operating machinery or working in a place where you have to be focused, that can have significant consequences,” said Dr. Samuel Gurevich, a sleep specialist with the Cleveland Clinic Weston.

Gurevich said a recent survey showed that about one in 25 adults said they fell asleep, or started to drift off, while driving.

If the problem becomes persistent, and there are no other factors involved such as medications or substances that can cause drowsiness, experts recommend undergoing a formal sleep study to determine if an underlying medical condition may be the cause.


About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.