Daylight Saving Time Could Be Especially Hard This Weekend Because Of COVID-19 Sleep Loss

Daylight saving time could be especially hard this weekend because of COVID-19 sleep loss.

 

woman leaning on top building rail during daytime

Sleep loss was an issue even before COVID-19. 

Michael S. Jaffee, University of Florida

The clock springs forward one hour on Sunday morning, March 14 for most people in the U.S. That is not an appealing thought for those who have suffered sleep problems because of the pandemic.

Sleep this past year has been affected by a variety of factors, including anxiety, inconsistent schedules and increased screen time. This affects our health, as getting adequate sleep is important to assure our immune system can fend off and fight infections.

Even before the pandemic, about 40% of adults – 50 to 70 million Americans – got less than the recommended minimum seven hours per night.

And, many researchers were already concerned about how the twice-a-year switch affects our body’s physiology. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the largest scientific organization that studies sleep, in October 2020 suggested nixing daylight saving time and moving to a year-round fixed time. That way, our internal circadian clocks would not be misaligned for half the year. And it would eliminate the safety risk from sleep loss when transitioning to daylight saving time.

I am a neurologist at the University of Florida. I’ve studied how a lack of sleep can impair the brain. In the 1940s, most American adults averaged 7.9 hours of sleep a night. Today, it’s only 6.9 hours. To put it another way: In 1942, 84% of us got the recommended seven to nine hours; in 2013, it was 59%. To break it down further, a January 2018 study from Fitbit reported that men got even less sleep per night than women, about 6.5 hours.

Woman in Green Shirt Lying on Bed

 

Children age 12 and under need 9-12 hours of sleep per night. 

The case for sleep

Problems from sleep shortage go beyond simply being tired. Compared to those who got enough sleep, adults who are short sleepers – those getting less than seven hours per day – were more likely to report 10 chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and depression.

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Disclosure: This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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