That extra hour of sleep may add a little bit of spring in your step when coming off of Daylight Saving Time, but it has a decidedly different impact from what you may expect. Changing your body clock is never as simple as dialing the numbers on the clock back or forward an hour once a year.
The Origins of Daylight Saving Time
It was Benjamin Franklin who first posed the idea of Daylight Saving Time, believing people could be more efficient if they would rise earlier in order to take advantage of the daylight instead of burning oil for light well into the night.
The actuality of Daylight Saving Time didn’t come into play until centuries later, during World War I when Germany adopted it in order to conserve coal for the war effort. Other nations quickly followed suit.
Daylight Saving Time and Sleep
While proponents of Daylight Saving Time argue that later hours of daylight promote healthy active lifestyles, the impact to the circadian rhythms of people, or internal body clocks, never fully adjust to that extra hour, according to National Geographic. For the majority of the population, this lack of adjustment results in marked decreases in productivity and quality of life, along with increased tiredness and susceptibility to illnesses. Business Insider reports that there is a spike in the number of heart attacks that occur in the first week of DST.
The problem, according to Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, is that shifting the hours of daylight from morning to night doesn’t help. It only creates a societal form of jet lag. He specifically states that “Light doesn’t do the same things to the body in the morning and the evening. More light in the morning would advance the body clock, and that would be good. But more light in the evening would even further delay the body clock.”
Minimizing the Impact of Daylight Saving Time on Sleep
Since changing the laws in states and nations takes time and the legislative pull most of us lack, aside from writing letters to local lawmakers as well as those in Washington, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands in order to minimize the jetlag impact of DST. These are a few things the Huffington Post recommends.
- Exercise later in the day. While this defies traditional wisdom, switching your workout routine to late afternoons or early evenings can help keep you energized in the evening once it begins to get dark earlier in the day.
- Consider bright light therapy. Using lamps that mimic natural sunlight can help you get the healing benefits of natural sunlight even if you’re not exposed to as much natural sunlight during your day.
- Expose yourself to additional light throughout the day to ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that can occur during the winter. Turn the lights on inside your home earlier in the evening. Upon the shades or blinds to let the sun stream in at work and at home. Take your lunch break outside rather than in.
As daylight saving time comes to an end, don’t forget the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Try creating a nightly bedtime ritual that signals your brain that it’s time to sleep, and consider switching your mattress to a natural latex mattress, which delivers firm support and other benefits that make it ideal for sleeping well throughout the night.
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