There might be a reason people get grumpy about losing an hour of sleep as we “spring forward” with Daylight Savings Time. While an hour might not seem like a huge difference, the shift in sunlight can upset a person’s circadian rhythm. And that, believe it or not, can lead to car accidents and other potential mishaps.

The shift can be difficult, especially for people who have a tough time in the morning hours as it is. The time change can actually be more difficult for people than shifting a time zone while traveling, says the director of a sleep and mood disorders laboratory.

According to an interesting ABC News article, the body clock, which is a part of the brain that generates the sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, can get thrown off with less light in the morning and extra light in the evening. The circadian rhythm needs a “signal” of sorts to reset every day. People can feel exhausted when their light-dark and sleep-wake cycles don’t line up. This is what can lead to accidents and other problems.

There are ways to adjust for people who are prone to problems. The director of the sleep and mood disorders laboratory says that avoiding evening sunlight shortly after the time change can help, as can absorbing the morning sunlight after the change. That means actually getting up at dawn to be in the light and not merely sleeping by a window.

What do you think? Is the Daylight Savings change something you barely notice, or does it always feel exhausting to you?

Source: ABC News, “Daylight Savings Time 2012: How to spring forward,” Katie Moisse, March 9, 2012