It happens every year – Daylight Saving Time begins, clocks spring forward and we lose an hour of sleep. The big switch this year is set for March 14. Despite losing an hour of sleep, it’s not all bad. Daylight Saving Time serves means longer days and summer weather on the horizon. Yet, Daylight Saving Time can have some serious long-term effects.
Daylight Saving Time and My Health
“It may not seem like much, but an hour makes a difference,” said Thomas Gravelyn, MD, a St. Joe’s and IHA Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine physician. “One hour of lost sleep can disrupt the circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock that cycles between alertness and tiredness.”
“When it’s dark, your body releases melatonin, a hormone that induces sleepiness. Exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin. Turning the clocks forward means less light in the morning and more light at night, which can make waking up and falling asleep at your regular times more difficult.”
Research has shown that the average person receives 40 minutes less sleep on the Monday after springing forward compared to other nights of the year. Losing one hour of sleep can affect productivity, concentration and physical and mental health. Recent studies have also found that Daylight Saving Time has long-term effects that can be associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Tips to Overcome Springing Forward
- Go to bed earlier. Ease into the time change by adjusting your bedtime by 15 minutes each night leading up to the time change. This can be helpful for children who are more likely to feel the effects of time change.
- Turn your clock forward on Saturday morning instead of Sunday morning. Allowing two days, rather than one to adjust, will help when Monday rolls around.
- Develop a consistent sleep routine. Go to sleep and wake up each morning at the same time. This helps develop a consistent sleep cycle, which improves your overall sleep and functioning while awake.
- Avoid napping if it isn’t part of your normal routine. Resist the urge to nap Sunday afternoon after waking earlier. Napping may interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night and delay your adjustment.
- Enjoy the longer evenings. Daylight Saving Time means longer sunlight in the evenings. Take a walk, go for a bike ride and sit outside. Natural lighting helps reset your body clock.
- Exercise: Physical activity is good for your health and helps you sleep better. Avoid working out close to your bedtime.
- Avoid eating or drinking close to bedtime. Don’t eat too close to bedtime so you can fall asleep easier and rest peacefully.
- Reduce screen time. Television, tablets and phones stimulate the brain and can make it harder to fall asleep. Try to avoid handheld screens at least two hours before bed and television one hour before bedtime.
When It’s Not Just A Little Sleepiness
Poor sleep can seriously affect your health and well-being. If you’re struggling with a little more than adjusting to Daylight Saving Time, consider consulting your doctor about a sleep study. Find a St. Joe’s Sleep Center near you.