Tips to Cope with the Change to Daylight Saving Time

By March 9, 2023Health Tips

Daylight Saving Time starts at 2 am this Sunday, March 12th. Springing forward will cost us an hour of sleep. This can adversely affect your health. Let’s talk about some tips that might help you cope with that lost hour of sleep.

How does the loss of sleep affect us?
Tips to Cope with the Change to Daylight Saving TimeThe clock in your brain that regulates sleep and wakefulness is typically a very reliable clock. It controls your circadian rhythm, which is about a 24-hour rhythm that responds to sunlight and darkness. For millions of years, it has helped us to slowly adapt to the gradual changes in the natural lighting throughout the year. It doesn’t adjust itself easily to rapid shifts just because the clocks in your home change.
Your rhythm gets reset every day based on light exposure. The light in the morning is particularly important. After the time change, that morning light exposure suddenly happens at a later time relative to the nominal clock time. So, if you normally wake up at 7:00 in the morning, your internal clock, may want to have a certain amount of light, but you won’t get that light until about 8:00 in the morning. Your internal clock takes anywhere from a few days up to a couple of weeks to adjust fully to the new external clock. And yet you still have the same obligations every day at a certain time of day. So, you have a bit of a disconnect between your own internal rhythm and the external world. Even a one-hour shift can affect us significantly. This is even more of a problem for most Americans who are already a little sleep-deprived on a regular basis.
Medical experts have noted the following adverse effects from the Daylight Saving Time change:
  • Increase in car accidents
  • Increase in strokes
  • Increase in heart attacks
  • Sleep deprivation and daytime drowsiness lasting up to weeks after the time change
  • Changes in mood can also last up to weeks
  • Poor performance on tests of alertness
Here are some tips to help you adjust:
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep on a consistent basis both before and after the time change. Ideally, you should try to go to bed and get up at the same time every morning, weekdays and weekends (within about 15-30 minutes). Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Try to plan ahead for the time change. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for 2-3 nights leading up to the time change.
  • Set a bedtime alarm to remind you to start your bedtime routine every night.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before bed. It may seem to make you drowsy initially, but it can lead to nighttime awakenings and poor-quality sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine after midday.
  • Do not eat a heavy meal late at night.
  • Avoid sleeping an extra hour this Sunday morning. This will just delay your symptoms until Monday when you will need to go to work!
  • If you feel sleepy on Sunday after the time change, you can take a short nap during the day, 20 minutes or so. Do not nap after 3-4 pm as this can affect your nighttime sleep.
  • Try to get extra exposure to morning sunlight as early as possible. You may consider an alarm clock that mimics sunrise by slowly increasing light for 30 minutes before your alarm goes off.
  • Minimize screen time in the evening. Most importantly, do not watch TV or use electronic devices in bed.
  • Avoid bright lights in the evening. Lower the lights in your home for instance.
  • Be aware of changes in your mood or changes in your alertness and adjust your activities accordingly.
If you have any questions about adjusting to the time change, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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