Dreading daylight saving time? Change how that lost hour affects you.
Whether you “spring forward” or “fall back,” daylight saving time can mess with the quality and quantity of your sleep. That’s especially true if you dutifully change your sleep time to match the clock rather than your own internal rhythms.
To observe daylight saving time means waking an hour earlier in springtime and getting back that hour in the fall when daylight saving time ends. The problem is your body just keeps chugging along on the same sleep-wake schedule, regardless of the digits on the clock. Even a one-hour change can be a difficult adjustment for your internal clock.
Today, the usefulness of daylight saving time is hotly debated in the United States, including Missouri. Until the debate is settled with the adoption of permanent daylight saving time or another uniform time act, our sleep quality depends on navigating the time shift.
First, what is daylight saving time?
On the first Sunday in March, we move clocks ahead one hour when daylight saving time begins. Daylight saving time ends the first Sunday in November. The practice is a relic of World War I and WWII as a way to conserve electricity for the war effort by taking advantage of daylight hours.
What happens to sleep quality when we change sleep time?
Your clock may still read 7 a.m. during daylight saving time, but your body probably doesn’t know it. As far as your brain is concerned, you are suddenly getting up at 6 a.m. This disruption in the usual sleep-wake cycle can result in sleep loss and poorer sleep quality.
Who has the most trouble sleeping after time change?
It is difficult enough to get good quality sleep after daylight saving time begins and ends. The challenge is more problematic for people with other sleep-disruptors, such as overnight work, rotating shifts or insomnia. In these cases, daylight saving time is one more factor preventing regular sleep and wake-up times.
The human body gets its cues for waking and sleeping from the sun: Sunrise signals the brain to become alert, while darkness brings on the urge to sleep. This 24-hour light-and-dark cycle is known as the “circadian rhythm.” Thus, we are more alert with longer hours of sunlight and sleepier after darkness falls.
When we shift our clocks by one hour, we end up with less exposure to daylight in the morning when we need to become alert and more light in the evening when we need to wind down for a good night’s sleep.
The effects of time change sleep problems on health
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), traffic accidents tend to spike in the first few days of daylight saving time each spring. This can be due to excess sleepiness or decreased visibility in the morning hours. Several other negative health consequences are attributed to daylight saving time.
- heart attack
- atrial fibrillation
- missed medical appointments
- mood changes (depression)
What are some steps to manage sleep and time change?
Minimize the impact of the daylight saving time change by easing into the time shift. Set your morning alarm 15 minutes earlier each day for four days before DST begins. Reverse this with the fall return to standard time or take advantage of the time change extra hour of sleep.
The AASM recommends additional steps to lessen the impact of daylight saving time:
- Strive for the same amount of sleep each night, about 7 or 8 hours.
- Before the sleep time change, adjust your other daily routines to align with your new schedule. That means adjusting your lunch breaks and workout times, for example.
- Change clocks Saturday evening rather than Sunday morning and get to bed at your usual time.
- Help your body adjust to the time change and sleep shift by getting as much sunlight as possible in the morning and minimizing light exposure in the evening. This will help your body clock stay on a more regular sleep-wake cycle.
When does daylight saving time end?
The end of daylight saving time 2023 falls on Nov. 5. At that time, you should set all your clocks back by one hour, which means you are gaining an hour of sleep before the alarm goes off.
Missouri is one of several states debating whether to do away with daylight saving time. As of this writing, no legislation has passed.
How to sleep better at night naturally the rest of the year
Want to know how to get better sleep during daylight saving time? When it comes to quality shut-eye, the body responds well to routine, relaxation and reliable health interventions when needed. Here’s how to sleep better during daylight saving, standard time or in another time zone:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule between time changes.
Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. The Mayo Clinic recommends setting aside 8 hours in bed, always with the same start and end times – even on weekends.
- Close the kitchen well before bedtime.
Most of us know that caffeine can keep us wide awake at night, so set down your coffee mug early in the day. Stop snacking a few hours before your usual bedtime to avoid discomfort or gastric reflux that could disrupt sleep.
- Maintain a soothing sleep environment.
Banish any and all light and sound that could send confusing signals to your brain and inhibit deep sleep. You can achieve this by turning off all electronic devices, shutting out natural light with black-out curtains and using an eye mask and earplugs to eliminate other distractions.
It also helps to leave all your worries on the other side of the bedroom door. Decompress with a book or magazine for an hour or so before bed. Or take a warm bath with soothing music lulling you into a sense of peace. A few moments of “me time” meditation will put you in the right mindset for sleepy time.
- Work with a primary care physician on treating sleep issues.
It’s normal to spend an occasional night tossing and turning. But if these sleepless nights increase in frequency, there may be an underlying physical cause. Your primary care doctor can help determine what’s keeping you up at night and prescribe a plan to get you back on track to slumberland.
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