Springing forward ultimately good for sleep: researcher

It's Daylight Saving Time, and whether you like the chance to see more sun or loathe the fact you're losing an hour of sleep, a Winnipeg-based sleep researcher says the spring forward is a good chance to take stock of just how well we're sleeping at night.

Winnipeggers tell CBC News they'd rather keep the hour of slumber

Sleepy young woman stretching hand to ringing alarm willing turn it off. getting work concept.; Shutterstock ID 701837962. (Shutterstock)

It's Daylight Saving Time, and whether you like the chance to see more sun or loathe the fact you're losing an hour of sleep, a Winnipeg-based sleep researcher says the spring forward is a good chance to take stock of just how well we're sleeping at night.

Dr. Diana McMillan calls it a wake-up call to take sleep more seriously.

"Sleep is something that is so important to our physical health, our mental health, our ability to learn, our immune functioning, how we regulate our blood sugar, and how we reduce our risks of being obese," explained McMillan, a sleep consultant and associate professor at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences College of Nursing at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Diana McMillan calls Daylight Saving Time a wake up call to take sleep more seriously. (Submitted)

"We really need to make it a much better priority so hopefully people will take the time when we have a clock change to say 'OK if this little shift has me a bit off kilter, how much better could I feel if I regularly try to promote optimal sleep for myself?'"

Beneficial to sleep, just not right away 

In the short term  — the first day and up to the first five days after the time change — McMillan says it can be "a bit of a challenge" for some people to get back into a proper sleep pattern.

But on the whole, McMillan says there are major benefits to Daylight Saving Time.

"We have an opportunity to get out more, to socialize, and get out in natural daylight where we can engage in healthy sporting activities and those have some really positive benefits," she said.

And being active in the sunlight makes it easier to get to sleep at night, notes McMillan.

McMillan says Daylight Saving Time is a good chance to check your "sleep battery". 

"I always try to think about what are the things that I can do to improve my sleep health," she said. 

Daylight Saving Opinions

5 years ago
Duration 1:04
Winnipeggers have mixed feelings about Daylight Saving Time.

She said that includes thinking about ways of adding more exercise to your day and reducing the amount of caffeine you take in while you're awake.

And to help those of us who have a hard time getting used to the loss of that hour, McMillan suggests changing your routine by 15 minutes over the four days leading up to the changeover.

"So move your dinner, lunch and bedtime a little bit earlier every day," she said. "It's easier than trying to push it back by an hour all at once."

Winnipeggers miss the hour of sleep

CBC News hit the streets Saturday to find out what Winnipeggers think of Daylight Saving Time.

We didn't find too many people looking forward to losing an hour of sleep and while most didn't know exactly why we go through the change every year, most thought the reason for the time change has something to do with farmers.

Mia Douchant is adamantly opposed to Daylight Saving Time.

Mia Douchant is no fan of Daylight Saving Time. (CBC)

"It causes car accidents for the week after the change because people are more tired, they're losing sleep and for children it's a huge adjustment," said Douchant. "I'm not sure what the benefit is ... it's something to do with farmers, but I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of Manitobans aren't farmers."

And Douchant says she comes by her resentment of springing forward — and falling back — for good reason.

"I've specifically shown up for work an hour early and an hour late on both ends of this."

It's the risk of car accidents that Aynsley Hygaard says leads her to oppose springing forward too.

Aynsley Hygaard says losing an hour of sleep makes the roads more dangerous the day after clocks roll forward. (CBC)

"It might be dangerous on the roads post the lack of sleep," said Hygaard, who comes from a background in agriculture and says many farmers don't care for the extra hour anyway. "They're going to get up at whatever time they need to for their farming reasons."

For the record Daylight Saving Time was originally proposed as a way of conserving energy, but a 2008 study in the U.S. showed that it may not necessarily be the case, finding there is a, "tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling."

Clocks spring forward one hour at 2 a.m. on March 11.