Daylight saving time is disruptive in a sleep-deprived society


As long as we have to fall back this weekend anyway, let’s use that extra hour to ponder the impossible-to-overstate importance of getting a good night’s sleep. You could easily spend weeks scouring research on the link between poor sleep and poor health outcomes and still not get true appreciation for the vital role that uninterrupted shut-eye plays in our physical and mental well-being. Hell, spend one second looking at these anatomic scans of a sleep-deprived brain, and that could solidify the concept.

Just in time for daylight saving time, which is Sunday, a new survey from meditation app Calm takes a broad look at sleep patterns in the United States and the U.K. to reveal how much—or how little—people are actually getting.

The findings are telling, with two-thirds of respondents saying they had difficultly adjusting to new time schedules after daylight saving time kicked in. Among those, 17% said it took them more than a week to get back to normal and another 7% said that their routines were “significantly” disrupted.

The survey question did not distinguish between falling back or springing forward, but it’s notable that only 36% of respondents didn’t seem to be bothered at all by daylight saving time. The findings reflect what sleep researchers have known for years: Abrupt changes in sleep schedules are not great for our health.

And even though lawmakers in Congress have periodically made public displays of their disdain for the semiannual practice, proposed legislative remedies to our clock-changing woes never seem to cross the finish line.

Beyond daylight saving, Calm’s survey contains some worrying revelations about people’s sleep habits. Over 40% of respondents said they slept less than six hours per night on average, and 18% said they slept less than five. Doctors typically recommend seven or more.

Meanwhile, only a quarter of people say they sleep through the night with no difficulty. Most said they have trouble either falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. As for what’s keeping people up at night, respondents cited a variety of things, from stress and anxiety to thinking about to-do lists and current events.

All told, it’s not a very calming picture of our relationship with one of humanity’s most precious activities. Sleep is where dreams are made. Getting there shouldn’t be a nightmare.

Calm’s survey of 9,500 people was conducted in August and included adults ages 18 to 65.


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