Start of Daylight Saving Time could hamper Monday morning commute

WASHINGTON — The act of “springing ahead” one hour when Daylight Saving Time begins early Sunday morning could affect your Monday morning commute.

“It’s definitely something to be concerned about,” said research scientist Jeffrey Hickman, of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

“Your body has an internal clock that’s used to going to sleep and getting up at a certain time,” said Hickman. “When that shifts, your body takes some time to adjust.”

The adjustment can result in sleep disruptions that last from a few days to a week, Hickman said.

“That’s where you’ll experience effects, regarding drowsiness and fatigue,” Hickman told WTOP. “It can lead to microsleeps, or falling asleep at the wheel, which can lead to collisions with other vehicles or running off the road.”

He said the crash risk increases during rush hours and from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. “Even if you get a lot of sleep, your body’s natural tendency is to say ‘you should be sleeping right now,’ so your body gets tired.”

The key to driving on a full tank: “Make sure you get 8 hours of sleep,” Hickman said.

“You can use caffeine as a short-term countermeasure,” he explained, but if you feel yourself nodding off while driving, pull off the road and rest.

“When I say rest, that doesn’t mean you have to take a nap,” said Hickman. “Just stop driving for 10 to 15 minutes. Get up and move around, and then resume your drive.”

Hickman said prior beliefs that four hours of sleep replenished half of a body’s sleep needs is wrong.

“What the research now shows is the most benefit you get from sleep is in those last couple hours of sleep,” said Hickman. “The most restorative sleep you get is in that sixth and seventh hour of sleep.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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