Over one-third of U.S. adults get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep every night . For a nation already sleep-deprived, the last thing we want or need is further disruption to our sleep schedule. But daylight saving time comes around like clockwork twice a year every year, whether we want it to or not.
Clocks moving back one hour in the fall and forward one hour in the spring may not sound like a big deal, but this seemingly small change can have a huge impact on your sleep cycle– leading to reduced sleep quantity and quality. Grogginess, irritability, and brain fog are just a few of the effects you may experience at the start and end of daylight saving time due to artificial interference with the body’s natural clock.
If adjusting to daylight saving time is something you routinely struggle with, thankfully, there are plenty of proactive measures you can take to combat its negative effects.
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Keep reading to learn more about the effects of the routine clock changes and how to deal with daylight saving time disruptions with helpful tips.
Daylight saving time (DST) is a twice-yearly, one-hour time adjustment that takes place on the second Sunday in March (spring forward) and the first Sunday in November (fall back). Clocks are set forward or back one hour at 2 am during the respective resets.
Except for Hawaii and Arizona, the United States is one of 70 countries to observe daylight saving hours. It was first introduced in 1918 to optimize the use of daylight and save costs and energy.
Although it may seem like we gain one hour during the fall, we’re actually on borrowed time from spring. This time lending can cause effects similar to jet lag, where your body has to adjust to a new schedule due to a different time zone. Moreover, ‘losing’ an hour of sleep during spring may be more difficult to recover from than ‘gaining’ one hour in the fall.
The yo-yo effect of switching to and from daylight saving time alters exposure to natural daylight, thereby causing our circadian rhythm to fall out of alignment. The circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that regulates sleep patterns and other biological processes by releasing specific hormones that induce sleep, lower core body temperature, and program sleep-wake times.
Losing an hour of sleep during spring can have dangerous real-life consequences. A 2020 study showed increased mood disturbances, heart attacks, strokes, emergency room visits, and fatal car accidents following the spring shift .
Fewer negative health implications have been linked to the fall back. However, many people struggle to fall asleep at their usual time, have increased sleep disturbances throughout the night, and tend to wake up earlier than intended. Ironically, although we gain an hour of sleep, the cumulative effect of these sleep issues suggests an overall loss of sleep. Moreover, the early evening darkness is linked to increased depression and seasonal mood disorders.
It can take several days for your internal clock to readjust to DST, with women reportedly struggling with the time change more than men. In fact, research by the Better Sleep Council found that 40% of Americans need at least a week, if not more, to recover from the lost hour .
The extent to which we are affected by the new timings also varies from person to person. Some people may only experience mild symptoms of grogginess for a couple of days. While for others, it can cause low mood, reduced productivity, cognitive impairments, and long-lasting fatigue, seriously disrupting their quality of life.
Preparing for daylight saving time at least one week before the change can help alleviate its negative effects on sleep and overall wellness.
If you’re worried about how seasonal time changes may affect your sleep quality and health, there are some simple strategies you can implement into your daily life to help adjust your circadian rhythm. Consider the following:
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It is a good idea to make gradual adjustments to your schedule to reduce the negative impact DST may have on your sleep. For example, if you usually go to bed at 11 pm during standard time, then during fall, you would have to adjust your bedtime to 10 pm, and vice versa during spring.
To ease you into this transition and prevent compromising your sleep, adjust your bedtime in the days leading up to the reset. This process involves going to bed and waking up 10-15 minutes earlier or later than usual, depending on the season, to avoid interfering with your natural melatonin cycle (the hormone that regulates sleep).
The adjustment also applies to other activities, including meal times, socializing, and exercise. This method effectively helps to ease the initial shock of DST to your circadian rhythm by giving you a buffer to acclimate to the new timing.
Darkness triggers the release of melatonin to prepare our body for sleep, while daylight signals the body to stop releasing the hormone to help us wake up easily. However, sudden DST shifts can throw off our sleep-wake cycles by disrupting our amount of exposure to natural light.
To combat this effect, expose yourself to plenty of natural sunlight and bright light throughout the day to boost mood and energy and resync your circadian rhythm to the new timing. Handy tips include opening your curtains as soon as you wake up or going for a morning or early afternoon walk. If you wake up while it’s still dark outside, it may help to wake up to a light therapy box, a sunlight-simulating alarm clock, or turn on bright light sources in your home.
Good sleep hygiene involves implementing a series of behavioral and environmental practices to improve sleep quality and help ease conditions such as insomnia and depression. There are several habits you can adopt before bed, including:
The blue light emitted from electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and television screens mimic the effects of sunlight, thereby suppressing melatonin production and preventing sleep. Moreover, consuming information keeps the mind stimulated, making it difficult to switch off before sleep. For this reason, it is best to avoid using digital devices for at least one hour before bed.
Stress, anxiety, and an overstimulated mind can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep at night. Relaxation methods such as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm your mind and body to induce sleep. You may even choose to take a warm bath, read a book, or write your thoughts down in a journal to decrease your mental burden.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends and days off, is the key to readjusting your melatonin cycle to help you recover from DST as quickly as possible.
Ensure you’re getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night while maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. As tempting as it is to stay up later and hit the snooze button in the morning, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Heavy food and alcohol can both disrupt sleep. Keep your last meal light and eat at least three hours before bed to give your body enough time to digest the food. Although alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, even small amounts can interfere with your sleep cycle, causing increased disturbances throughout the night and a lack of quality sleep. Limit your alcohol consumption in the evening and consume it with your meal to lessen its disruptive effects.
Caffeine is a stimulant that increases wakefulness and alertness, and it can take up to 12 hours to leave the body. For this reason, avoiding coffee and other caffeinated beverages is recommended after the morning or early afternoon at the latest. Be mindful of any medication you may be taking that also contains caffeine.
It’s important to create an environment conducive to sleep to avoid sleep disruptions. Block out disturbing light and noise from your bedroom by using eye masks, ear plugs, and blackout curtains. Keep your room temperature between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit and choose a supportive mattress and cool, comfortable bedding for a good night’s sleep.
Using your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy conditions your brain to make an association between the environment and preparing for sleep. Make sure your room is clutter-free and free from any distracting items.
There’s plenty of research to confirm the benefits of regular exercise in promoting healthy sleep. Whether it’s a brisk walk or jog around your local park or an intense HIIT workout, keeping active throughout the day increases the drive to sleep at night and reduces stress as a bonus.
Whatever activity you choose to do, aim for around 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least three times a week. It’s also a good idea to get more exercise outdoors in the lead-up to DST to enhance your light exposure during the day.
However, it is important to note that exercising too close to bedtime can be counterproductive as it increases core body temperature, elevates stress hormones, and boosts alertness, decreasing your chances of falling and staying asleep. Try to get your workout in at least three hours before bedtime to avoid sleep disruption.
If you’re really struggling to stay awake during the days after the DST switch, it may help to take a short afternoon nap if your schedule allows you to do so. A 15-20 minutes snooze is enough to boost energy levels during the day; anything longer will likely leave you feeling groggy and disoriented.
Between 1 pm and 3 pm is the ideal time to nap as it aligns with your natural energy dip. Make sure you don’t nap too late in the day, as it will increase your drive towards deep sleep and disrupt your nightly sleep cycle.
Pzizz also has a dedicated nap module. It allows you to customize your nap experience with specially-designed narrations designed to enhance cognitive performance and alertness and improve your mood.
Natural sleep remedies can be a great option to help you fall asleep fast and experience fewer disturbances during the night. Popular sleep-inducing herbal supplements include valerian root, magnesium, chamomile, lavender, passionflower, glycine, and melatonin.
The success rate with such sleep aids varies from person to person. You should always consult your doctor or a healthcare professional before taking over-the-counter supplements, as they can interfere with medications you may already be taking.
Something to keep in mind is that even though the FDA regulates natural supplements, it categorizes them as food rather than medicine. This means manufacturers aren't obliged to prove their product's safety or effectiveness before selling them.
Sleep plays a crucial role in your physical health and mental wellbeing, but the time change that comes with daylight saving time can cause sleep deprivation that lingers for several days or weeks. If daylight saving time has thrown your sleep schedule off and you’re serious about getting it back on track, Pzizz can help you on your journey to better sleep. Download it on the App Store and Google Play today to enjoy your free trial.
Transitioning in and out of daylight saving time can cause low moods, such as depression and anxiety, due to sleep disruptions; this is especially true for people who are vulnerable to mood disturbances. Evidence shows that mental and emotional problems increase when the clocks go back in the fall compared to when they move forward in spring.
The amount of time it takes for your body to adjust to daylight saving time varies from person to person. Some people may recover from the effects of DST after a couple of days, while others will need a week or more to adjust to the time change.
Despite the negative implications of daylight saving time on sleep and overall health, one key benefit includes increased daylight hours to promote safety. More daylight in the evenings increases visibility, making it safer for pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers, and children to be outdoors and lowering criminal activity. DST also allows for a reduction in peak energy loads as it requires less reliance on electricity in the evening compared to standard time.