This year’s switch to Daylight Saving Time caused a lot more grumbling than usual. The New York Times weighed the pros and cons, while several magazine and online columnists either defended the time change or advocated a permanent policy of standard or daylight time for the entire year.

Here’s something about the “spring forward” time change that few people would think about — it apparently has marketing advantages.

Alarm clockConsumers change their buying habits when they’re sleepy, which happens for a time after DST begins. When they’re shopping, people put a wider variety of products in their carts if they are suffering from sleep deficiency, a new study claims.

“The day after daylight savings people tend to be sleepier as they get less sleep, on average about 30 to 60 minutes,” said Charles Weinberg, a professor or marketing and behavioral science at the UBC Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“So, we wanted to see how this would play out in the real world, and through the study we’re seeing that you tend to buy more different types of candy bars, for example, on the day after daylight savings time than you would on other days of the week. That’s even after controlling for how many candy bars you choose.”

Weinberg, one of the authors of the study, and colleagues found that sleep deprived consumers aren’t random in their shopping, as you might expect bleary-eyed folks to be. Instead, they seek variety in order to help them stay awake.

He suggests that even bars and restaurants can capitalize on the phenomenon by offering customers selections that change day-to-day or even throughout the day.

Since sleep deprivation seems to encourage consumer experimentation, Weinberg recommends businesses offer options that encourage “sampling behavior.”

Although it wasn’t part of the study, results raise the possibility that other forms of sleep deprivation could be used in marketing as well.

Consider neighborhoods populated by busy young families who deal with a lack of sleep on a regular basis — Daylight Saving Time or not — because of child-raising duties on top of juggling jobs and careers.

A study in the academic journal Sleep, published in January, found that new parents get as little as three hours of sleep per night. The problem becomes most acute three months after birth, and total sleep recovery doesn’t occur for about six years.

In fact, one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Sufficient sleep is defined as at least seven hours a night.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons