As most Canadians adjust clocks to daylight time this Sunday, a sleep disorder expert warns that losing the one hour of sleep could have some serious health consequences.

The annual “spring forward” has been linked to an increase in traffic and workplace accidents, as well as an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke in the first week following the time change. 

Losing one hour of sleep may not seem like a big deal, but many Canadians are chronically sleep deprived and daylight time may exacerbate the problem, Dr. Adam Moscovitch, medical director of the Sleep and Fatigue Institute in Toronto, told CTV’s Canada AM Thursday.

The health effects of sleep deprivation have been documented in various studies over the years. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008 found that the number of heart attacks significantly increased for the first three weekdays after the transition to daylight time. 

Moscovitch said a more recent survey found that middle-aged or older people who sleep less than six hours per night are four times more likely to have a stroke.

Studies have also shown that the number of traffic and workplace accidents spikes during the first week after clocks are set forward in March.

“The health effects (of sleep deprivation) are huge and we really don’t fully appreciate it,” Moscovitch said.

He said that about 10 to 15 per cent of society is sleep deprived, “which is becoming a significant problem.”

“Sleep gives us a lot,” he said. “It’s not only the number of hours of sleep, but it’s also the quality of sleep.”

Moscovitch is urging people to “be particularly careful driving” next week and go to bed an hour earlier Sunday night to get a proper night’s rest. 

 “The effect of that one hour change can last for a whole week,” he said.

“Start appreciating the importance of sleep. You cannot cut corners with it.”