Spring Forward, But do it Safely

Some things are so reliable you can set your clocks by them, literally. On March 8, 2015, Americans will “spring forward” one hour in observance of daylight saving time (DST). This annual rite of spring gives us a little extra sunshine in the summer months. It can also have a serious impact on our safety, especially behind the wheel. Follow these tips to keep your body and mind rested and ready.

sleep med graphicUnderstand the risk. About 30 percent of Americans don’t get enough shut-eye. On the Monday following the switch to DST, our sleep-deprived bodies get another 40 minutes less rest on top of that. The compounding effects of fatigue contribute to a 6 percent increase in workplace injuries and 68 percent more work days lost to injuries during DST.

Give your body time to adjust
Your body’s internal clock needs about one day to adjust to each hour of time change.

Go to bed earlier the night before the time change
It’s easier to make up the loss of sleep by going to bed earlier than by getting up later.

Practice good sleep hygiene
Good sleep hygiene includes reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol, exercising several hours before bedtime, creating calming rituals before bed to gradually relax (reading a book, taking a bath), wearing ear plugs and eye masks, and going to bed and rising at the same time every day.

Drive defensively
People drive safer in the daylight. With the switch to DST, it may be dark during your morning commute, so drive defensively to protect yourself from potentially groggy commuters:

  • Scan the road ahead
  • Prepare for the “What’s if’s.” For example, what will you do if another driver runs a red light?
  • Don’t count on others to drive safely.

Know the red flags for sleep disorders
If you consistently wake up tired, experience daytime sleepiness or fall asleep at inappropriate times, you might have a sleep disorder. Contact your doctor immediately.

More resources
The National Sleep Foundation offers free tools and tips as part of National Sleep Week. In addition, Texas Mutual created a safe-driving educational program. The program includes a PowerPoint presentation on drowsy driving. Other free resources include:

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