Sunday morning at 3am marks the beginning of Daylight Savings, that government-sanctioned yearly theft of one of our precious hours, making the weekend sixty minutes too short and our sleep not fully caught up by Monday.
The knowledge that we’ll be getting that hour back next fall is cold comfort to our winter blues, and considering that Canadians are among the most sleep deprived people on the planet, according to the latest research, this springing forward of the clocks is bound to further our sleep debt.
Canada came third (or third-worst, however you want to spin it) last year in a study from the United Kingdom which compared sleep habits across 13 countries in Europe, North America and Asia. 31 per cent of Canadians polled said that they aren’t getting enough sleep, the same proportion as found in the United States and slightly lower than those reporting from the UK and Ireland where 37 and 34 per cent, respectively, complained of not enough sleep.
Down at the bottom (or, again, possibly the top) of the list were China where only ten per cent said they needed more sleep and India with only nine per cent feeling sleep-deprived.
Our busy lifestyles and work schedules are partly to blame, but the invasion of technology into our private, once calm and quiet sanctuaries are a big part of the trend as well. A survey of 500 men between the ages of 30 and 49 by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF) found that 33 per cent of men are only getting four to six hours of sleep per night, with 45 per cent of those surveyed saying that they stay up late watching television and 41 per cent saying they’re up late browsing the internet.
Both of these are sleep no-nos, says Shea Emry with CMHF.
“It can be tough to switch off electronic devices before you go to sleep, but the mind needs time to unwind,” said Emry to Global News. “Guys shouldn’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep to ensure a healthy state of mind.”
Not getting enough sleep is not only bad for concentration, cognition and performance during working hours, it’s a good way to play havoc with the body’s metabolic state, which can affect a range of bodily processes. People who are habitually sleep-deprived have a 60 per cent increased risk of heart attack, for example, and a 50 per cent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Sadly, the problem is hitting our children and youth, too. Almost one-third of Canadian school-aged kids are sleep-deprived, according to a ParticipAction Report Card from June of last year.
The “double-whammy” of too little exercise and too much screen time are the culprits, says Dr. Mark Tremblay, lead researcher on the Report Card. “Because of screens in their bedroom, because of holding their cellphone under their pillow, because they didn’t move very much in that day and frankly are not fatigued, (kids) get a disrupted night’s sleep,” said Dr. Tremblay.
So while there’s not much we can do about losing an hour to Daylight Savings (aside from moving to Saskatchewan, possibly), each of us does have the ability to at least do the basics for getting better sleep: switch off those screens and power down for the night.