After daylight savings time each year, millions of Americans regularly grumble about “losing an hour” of sleep, wondering why daylight savings time exists, and probably trying to make up the difference with extra caffeine. It may seem like this annual ritual is just an especially bad Monday morning where we’re tired but otherwise unscathed. Continuing investigations into how sleep affects the brain is showing that abruptly shifting our schedule an hour cost us a lot more than just an extra coffee to start the day.
While sleep deprivation is famously associated with difficulty concentrating or performing detail-oriented tasks, it’s been found to hit our emotional centers as well. In extreme cases, even something as presumably neutral as an image of a spoon could trigger spikes in activity in the amygdala, causing distraction and stress.
Even if you feel like you’ll be able to keep your cool with the cutlery, there’s a good chance that your tired brain will react harshly to the humans in your life as well. People in need of sleep have been found to have a harder time identifying faces of people they don’t know, such as if you had to match a photo ID to the person in front of you. When looking at faces, sleep deprived people also tend to interpret expressions more negatively than they really were. As if the brain was worried about missing a threat it didn’t have the energy to actually assess, tired people were found to judge friendly and neutral expressions as being more threatening than their well-rested counterparts.
Stronger Sentencing on Sleepy Monday
Obviously, increased stress and confusion about the people around you may make your day harder to endure, but there can be very long-term consequences to these reactions. Analysis of a decade of criminal sentencing records has found that judges hand out tougher punishments right after daylight savings adjustments. The judges probably weren’t as acutely sleep-deprived as the test subjects of the other studies mentioned here, but they were disturbed enough to increase make their sentencing about five percent harsher than normal. That might not sound like a lot at first, but an additional three months of incarceration for nothing other than happening to be sentenced on “Sleepy Monday” is significant.
Even if you’re not a judge who should really try to rest up before daylight savings switches over, all of this will hopefully serve as a reminder to really try to mind your Sleepy Monday a bit more gently. Teachers, bosses and parents are all in positions of power that need to mind our own reactions, as well as try to give a bit of leeway to the people around us who are probably tired as well. It’d be nice if daylight savings switched on a Saturday to give everyone an extra day to adjust our circadian rhythm, but in the mean time just try to rest up as best you can— the best way to get your face/emotion/etc. interactions back to normal is some good, deep sleep.
Source: Switching to daylight saving time may lead to harsher legal sentences, Science Daily