Gain an Hour of Sleep, but Lose Billions

Time Changes are Costing us Billions

Gain an Hour of Sleep, but Lose Billions

While it is widely understood that Daylight Saving Time saving is economically beneficial in terms of energy consumption, the time changes we endure each year have numerous unknown financial losses.  According to the Huffington Post, moving the clocks forward and back costs the American economy in upwards of $434 million per year in both direct and collateral damages.

Energy concerns

When Benjamin Franklin quipped in 1784 that if Parisians would wake before noon, they would save money on candles in the evening, he was rather common-sensically true. Fast forward to the present and this concept has caught on, with most believing that keeping daylight later in the day does, in fact, save on energy costs. In 2008, the US Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed Franklin’s enlightened (pun intended) theory. The DOE found that when daylight saving time was extended for four weeks pursuant to the 2005 Energy Policy Act, five percent more electricity was saved daily for a total of 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours, with experts asserting that the majority of this savings was attributable to evening hours.

Employer woes

Opponents to changing the clocks assert that altering our circadian rhythms is neither healthy nor productive. There is ample evidence of the myriad potential health problems the time changes cause; however, there is equally compelling evidence that messing with people’s circadian rhythms negatively impacts productivity.

In 2016, Grant found that when we “spring forward” we “lose” an hour “disproportionately from resting hours rather than wakeful time.” Consequently, the problems stemming from sleep deprivation such as more workplace injuries, traffic accidents, and “cyberloafing” permeate our waking hours. At the heart of the problem is the initial sleep deprivation following the start of daylight saving time and the related increase in employees’ distractedness and subsequent errors, thus costing their employers money.

She emphasizes that it’s not just that single hour and the immediate few days of grogginess, but the increased exposure to sunlight reduces melatonin production, thus promoting insomnia that could last far longer than a few days.

Another concern involves workplace accidents. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor and Mine Safety and Health Administration data between 1983 and 2006, more workplace injuries occur on the Monday following turning the clocks forward. If this wasn’t alarming enough, the injuries were also more severe. Changes in the amount of sleep workers get plays a large role in compromising attention to detail, and this equates to a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries. Adding insult to injury (no pun intended) is that these injuries result in 68 percent more workdays lost to injuries. Expert assert that, perhaps, rescheduling potentially hazardous work so employees have a chance to adjust could mitigate these figures.

Public safety costs

According to a 2014 study conducted by the University of Colorado-Boulder, Daylight Saving Time was responsible for 17 percent more traffic fatalities. With a ten-year sample, researchers assert that Daylight Saving Time increases fatal crash risk by disrupting sleep and reallocating that hour of ambient light away from the evenings making it harder for people driving home from work to see. The increase in traffic fatalities over the first days after the time change resulted in 302 deaths at a $2.75 billion over those ten years. Because the same figures were not found in the autumn, the researchers attributed the problem directly to Daylight Saving Time.

An increase of 302 deaths and $2.75 Billion in losses, due to the time change

Fischbeck and Gerard of Carnegie-Mellon University found in their seven-year study that when we return to standard time, when the sun sets earlier, pedestrians who walk during the evening rush hour are three times more likely to be struck and killed by automobiles. This translates to an average of 37 more pedestrian deaths in November than October. Per-mile risk increases dramatically as well during the evening rush hour—by a whopping 186 percent—from October to November. As is the case for traffic fatalities, these accidents impart a serious economic burden on both governments, taxpayers and the emotional trauma to families.

Healthcare costs

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates that changing the clocks increases certain health problems, particularly strokes, heart attacks, miscarriages, and cluster headaches. Naturally, this increases actual medical care costs which result in higher insurance premiums that are passed to the consumer as well as higher taxes to compensate for those without insurance.

The bottom line

The financial losses associated with time changes and an earlier sunset over the Fall and Winter are substantial.  From lost employee productivity due to time changes, public safety costs due to traffic accidents, emotional loss due to increased deaths, along with increased healthcare costs, the sooner we end the time changes of Daylight Saving Time and keep the later sunset, the better.  It won’t be pennies that are saved, but billions of dollars. Is that one day of an extra hour of sleep worth the cost?

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