- The Washington Times - Friday, April 2, 2004

Losing the hour of sleep when switching to daylight-saving time can be disorienting for healthy sleepers and hazardous for the severely sleep-deprived.

“This is a difficult adjustment in a country that already has a high incidence of sleep deprivation,” said Dr. Conrad Iber, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Iber said American adults routinely sleep a few extra hours on weekends to make up for a shortfall during the week. And when they lose an hour tomorrow at 2 a.m. for the switch over, it’s “another stresser” that can cause drowsiness.

Some studies have found the time change that provides an extra hour of daylight during the warm-weather months is linked to a 17 percent rise in fatal car crashes occurring primarily during the first four days after the switch. Others have indicated the rise is closer to 6.5 percent.

Hans Van Dongen, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in sleep disturbances, said he is not sure the detrimental effect would last as long as four days.

“But if you measure carefully, you will see an increase in crashes” in the first day or two after DST takes effect, he said.

He said that the worst traffic mishaps probably occur the Monday after the change.

Dr. Paul Selecky, a board-certified sleep specialist and medical director of Hoag Hospital’s Sleep Disorder Center in Newport Beach, Calif., said he has seen data showing a “slight increase” in vehicular accidents on Monday after the change and a “slight decrease” after standard time returns in the fall.

Even those who are not severely sleep-deprived can have accidents as a result of losing an hour of sleep, Dr. Van Dongen said.

And those who normally get the recommended amount of sleep nightly — 8 hours for an adult — will likely feel some effect in terms of sleep loss, either on the first Sunday of DST or early into the following week. Signs of sleep deprivation include grouchiness, grogginess, disorientation, reduced vigilance and a slower reaction time, he said.

Dr. Selecky, however, said “not everyone suffers,” because “some are more sensitive to losing an hour of sleep than others.”

The problem? The bedside clock easily can be set one hour ahead, but a person’s internal, biological “clock” is more difficult to change.

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