By Steven G. Mehta

With Daylight Savings Time going into effect, and with me getting up in a terrible mood this morning, and then ending up messing up the timing and location of a meeting that I was supposed to attend, I started to think about the effect Daylight Savings Time has on conflict.

While it appears that there is no research designed to address this issue specifically, there is some indirect research that Daylight Savings Time can have an effect on our ability to handle conflict effectively.

First, there is a conflicting body of research on the effect of DST and injuries.  According to one article, a 1996 study in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed an 8 percent jump in traffic accidents on the Monday after the switch, but a follow-up report two years later suggested that figure was lower. In 2000, a group of Swedish researchers concluded that the change did not have any significant effects on the number of crashes in that country. Jump forward to 2009, though, and Michigan State University psychologists Christopher Barnes and David Wagner report that there are more workplace injuries on the Mondays following that lost hour.

According to Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at the University of Munich, our internal clocks set themselves according to the environment. So, our natural chronometers keep time with the sun, not the alarm clocks sitting by our beds, and this is the main reason it is hard for us to adjust.

According to Roenneberg DST throws our internal system out of balance. When we move back our clocks, Roenneberg says: “The social times change but the sun time does not.”  This causes our system to feel sleep deprivation.

The effects of this deprivation are that people tend to lag in the afternoon.  Further, this change affects people who are “afternoon” people more as opposed to “morning” people.

According to one website dedicated to sleep deprivation issues,

Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on your health in the form of physical and mental impairments. Inadequate rest impairs our ability to think, handle stress, maintain a healthy immune system and moderate our emotions.

Some of the symptoms of even minor sleep deprivation include irritability, easier to get angry, lack of concentration, and forgetfulness.

The problem is that these symptoms can be exhibited by everyone during this time and can these effects can easily last for at least a week, if not up to a month after the time change.

How do we combat against this phenomenon during mediation or conflict resolution?

First, you should try to make sure that you go to bed earlier for the first week after the change to make sure that you get adequate rest.  You don’t want to be the one to instigate some conflict based on your “crankiness.”  In addition, as a mediator or attorney representing a party, it is important that you don’t get sucked up into some conflict or head down an emotional path simply because you weren’t thinking straight.

Second, press the pause button on your reactions to other people.  If someone displays negative emotions towards you, simply slow down your reaction and press the pause button.  Take a few moments to think about your reaction rather than having an automatic reaction.

Third, as has been indicated in prior posts, (see The Raisin and Negotiator,) being mindful before you enter the mediation can be very powerful in minimizing the negative emotions and helping prevent a negative response to a negative stimulant.

Hopefully, you can avoid major conflicts.  But if you can’t, maybe you might give the other person a little slack.  Who knows, you may need that slack in the next few days yourself?