by Stanley Coren, Ph.D.

When does moving forward really mean that you are losing something? When it's Daylight Savings Time. This Sunday, most residents of the United States and Canada turn clocks back one hour resulting in an hour of sleep loss. Although it is only an hour of sleep difference, psychological researchers have identified a clear relationship between losing an hour of sleep and an increase in fatigue and traffic accidents. In addition, some researchers believe that losing that one hour of sleep can have the same effect as a three-hour jet lag.

Psychologist Stanley Coren, Ph.D., from the University of British Columbia reported his research last year in The New England Journal of Medicine showing a seven percent increase in traffic accidents the day after Daylight Savings Time and a seven percent decrease in accidents in the Fall when the clocks return to Standard Time. "We're all sleep deprived anyway so that extra loss you experience is enough to lead to an accident," says Dr. Coren. He is now studying the effects of sleep deprivation on the immune system.

Attitudes about how much sleep we need are changing. Based on a few case studies some researchers believed that reducing your sleep, even by an hour, would not affect you. Now researchers want to dispel that myth. "Over the last 25 years," says psychologist Robert Hicks, Ph.D., from San Jose State University, "the amount of sleep young adults get has diminished by one hour. Over that same period of time 24 to 70 percent of young adults are also complaining about lost sleep." In order to function fully, you need at least between seven and eight hours of sleep Dr. Hicks says.

So if we can't take Monday, April 7, off from work, what can we do to offset the effect that losing one hour of sleep has on us? "Treat yourself like you have jet lag," suggests Dr. Hicks. He recommends readjusting your sleeping (go to bed an hour earlier) and eating schedules (eat dinner an hour earlier) before time change occurs. Taking a nap to relieve yourself of the extra fatigue is not the same as having that hour of sleep during the night according to Dr. Hicks. Use extra caution when driving or operating machinery as well that day. And, in addition, watch your alcohol intake. With the reduction in sleep you are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.

For further information, you can contact the researchers directly:
Stanley Coren, Ph.D., University of British Columbia, 604-822-6458
Robert Hicks, Ph.D., San Jose State University, 408-924-5659


The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.


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