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Time change disrupts sleep patterns

Daylight Saving Time can affect employee performance


(Canadian OH&S News) — While spring may be one step closer, the daily grind could feel even more trying for many employees who lost an hour of sleep as Daylight Saving Time (DST) kicked in on March 12. And sleep experts are highlighting the effects of disrupted sleep patterns and what it could mean for those who work in safety-sensitive positions.

“Springing ahead can cause all sorts of problems for people, including loss of sleep or accumulation of sleep debt and adjustment in the circadian clock, making it harder to fall asleep at night,” Dr. Charles Samuels, the medical director of Calgary’s Centre for Sleep and Human Performance, said in a statement from the Centre dated March 7. He suggested that people should make sure to get enough sleep on the weekend and go to bed later for a few nights after the weekend to minimize sleep disruptions related to the time change.

Dr. Samuels is an expert on the effect of sleep deprivation and disruption on human health and human performance.  He is also the lead investigator in a long-term study with the Calgary Police Service to explore the impact of rotating shift work on health and performance of police officers. The project is part of a North American collaboration including Harvard University, New York State University in Buffalo and Washington State University.

As modern society pushes the limits of human capacity to cope with the demands of a 24/7 society, physicians are seeing the emergence of new epidemics that can be linked to a lack of quality sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other medical conditions, the statement from the Centre noted.

For those whose jobs require them to be constantly on the road, FedEx Express Canada and Parachute, a national charitable organization tasked to prevent injuries, are reminding drivers and pedestrians to exercise extra vigilance on the road, as driver fatigue is a factor in roughly 20 per cent of all fatal crashes in Canada, according to 2010 statistics from the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators in Ottawa. Many collisions occur between 3 and 6 p.m., when drivers are coming home from work.

“As a global express transportation company, FedEx Express puts safety above all, both in the workplace and on the road,” said Pina Starnino, vice president of operations at FedEx Express Canada. “For us, safety is more than just an essential work practice — it is a commitment to our neighbours in the communities we serve.”

And for almost half of Quebeckers, it could take anywhere from one day to a week to adjust to the time change, according to a survey out of Montreal published on March 6. According to an online poll conducted for Bon Matin bread by Léger from Feb. 6 to 10, DST has a negative effect on the behaviour and mindset of Quebec’s population. Poll results indicate that one-third of Quebeckers experience difficulty waking up, one-fifth report a lack of energy and 13 per cent indicate irritability when the clock turns forward.