Categories: Sleep Science

Daylight Savings Time and Sleep

Daylight Savings Time (DST) officially ends at 2:00 am on the first Sunday in November. This gives us an extra hour of sleep this weekend, which will make most sleepers happy. But keep in mind that there may be side effects as well. Let’s explore how Daylight Savings Time affects your sleep, and what you can do to reduce any effects it may have.

Daylight Savings Time History

Though it was once suggested by Benjamin Franklin (in jest) as a means of conserving candles (by getting Parisians out of bed earlier in the day), it wasn’t until World War I, when it was suggested as part of a wartime conservation initiative, that it was first used in the United States.

DST was repealed after the war but re-enacted, nationwide during World War II. In 1966, congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966 which created consistent dates (last Sunday of April and last Sunday of October) to begin and end daylight savings time each year. The law was amended by the 2005 Energy Policy Act to extend the dates with DST beginning on the Second Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November.

The DST practice is not widely embraced by everyone, especially when they lose an hour of sleep in the spring. However, it remains the law of the land that most states except Hawaii, Arizona (except for the Navajo), Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a few other overseas territories who do not observe daylight savings time. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce the effect it has on your household.

Why is Daylight Savings Time so Difficult?

There are a variety of reasons why daylight savings time makes you feel off-kilter for several days, or even weeks to come, but there’s one primary culprit. The more you understand why the effect is so profound, the more steps you can take to reduce DST’s effect on you.

The primary reason why moving our clocks ahead or back one hour is consequential lies in the disruption to your circadian rhythm.  Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock that controls sleep, digestion, metabolism, and even when you wake up.

Sunlight is the primary natural cue that signals the body into the appropriate actions. Moving the clock disrupts that rhythm, throwing the entire body into a state of chaos.

Because your sleep and other functions, are disrupted by the change in time, you may experience side effects as your body adjusts to the new time, such as:

  • People who suffer from mental health conditions and disorders may feel the effects more profoundly as a result in these sleep disruptions.
  • Increased vulnerability to illnesses. Your immune system also takes a direct hit as a result of sleep deprivation. This means your body’s natural ability to fight off colds and infections is compromised.
  • Increased stroke risk. One study conducted by Finnish researchers determined a slight increase in stroke-related hospitalizations for two days following time changes.
  • Diminished work or school performance. Sleep deprivation is no friend to productivity. The days following DST time changes can lead to poor performance on the job and in the classroom.
  • Greater risks of accidents and injuries. This includes injuries on the job, automobile accidents, etc.

Who would have thought something as simple as a one-hour shift in time could cause all these problems? The problem is that it is much larger than a one hour difference. In some areas, it means trying to wake up when the sky is still dark, and convincing the mind to go to sleep while the sun is still out.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help your mind and body adjust to the shift in time. It will help to ease the transition for you and your family.

Tips for Making Daylight Savings Time Easier

Getting your circadian rhythm back in order can be a bit of problem. Sometimes you have to convince your mind that the world is a little different than it is. Here are a few steps you can take, to help your body adjust:

  • Use bright lights in the morning. One of the problems is difficulty waking up in the morning when the sun isn’t shining yet. Try to stick to your morning routine as much as possible. It is better for your body to maintain a sleep schedule that is as consistent as possible.
  • Use light blocking curtains in bedrooms. It is often difficult to convince your mind to sleep when there is bright sunlight streaming in through your windows (or those of your children). Combat this with light-blocking curtains. They will make the room dark, so your mind can be tricked into believing it’s dark outside.
  • Develop and keep a consistent sleep routine. This doesn’t only refer to sleeping at the same time every night. It also applies to keeping a consistent bedtime routine. This will trigger your brain that it’s time for bed. It might include a soak in the tub, putting on pajamas, reading in bed, meditating, skin care routine, etc. It should be something you do every night right before going to bed. Also, it should be approximately 30 minutes, to give your mind and body time for winding down.
  • Exercise early in the day. Exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythm. That said, choose to exercise earlier in the day. Exercising close to your bed time can disrupt your quality of sleep.
  • Make little adjustments in the days leading up to the change. Adjusting your bedtime and wake time by 5-10 minutes each day ahead of November 4th.

Little things like these can make a difference. They will help to minimize the impact DST has on your life and your ability to sleep. Taking steps now to develop good sleep habits can greatly reduce the toll DST takes on your body this year.

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Amber Merton

Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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