It happens every spring. Yet somehow, you’re never quite fully prepared for daylight savings when the second Sunday in March comes around. As you get ready to “spring ahead” on March 12 and all clocks are shifted one hour ahead, you may have trouble adjusting to the new time change. Learn why daylight savings disrupts your internal clock and what you can do to get over the time adjustment as smoothly as possible.
Adjusting to daylight savings time
The first implemented daylight savings time happened in 1918 as a wartime measure for seven months during WWI to add more daylight hours. Although some might argue that it’s an outdated practice, studies show that it does help decrease the number of car accidents, influences a drop in crime by upwards of 30%, and saves electricity and infrastructure energy.
While you may love soaking up those extra hours of sunlight, adjusting to the new hours can take a few days. According to the American Academy of Sleep, 55% of adults in the US feel tired during the spring daylight savings transition. Losing an hour of sleep doesn’t seem like much, but studies consistently show that the spring transition is associated with negative outcomes for health, safety, productivity, and sleep disruption for at least five to seven days after the transition.
How daylight savings affects your health
Cutting sleep short by one hour on one night might not sound too detrimental, but the lost hour can have significant effects, especially for those sleeping less than the recommended seven to nine hours a night. The time change can have lasting effects on your body’s internal clock. Your circadian rhythm is the internal schedule that your body follows and helps internal systems function properly. Digestion, heart function, and hormonal functions all depend on consistent patterns in your day-to-day life. When the time change occurs, your body hasn’t adjusted cortisol levels and your heart has to work a little harder to get you moving again in the morning.
What you can do to ease the time change
Once the transition to daylight savings has come and gone, you may feel a bit groggy, but you don’t have to just grin and bear it. There are a few ways to help mitigate the effects of daylight savings.
- Try to resist taking a nap
Avoiding the nap that you crave may seem cruel, but this will reduce the amount of sleep pressure at bedtime and help you keep your sleep schedule on track. If you must take a nap, try keeping it to 15 or 20 minutes in the late morning. Sleeping for 20 minutes allows you to get a bit of light sleep to boost your alertness and energy without allowing your brain to enter into a deep sleep, which can cause grogginess and actually worsen your fatigue.
- Go outside and soak up some sun
Make sure to get plenty of sunlight in the morning after the time change. Light affects your internal body clock and will help you feel less sleepy.
- Avoid caffeinated food, drinks, and alcohol
Foods like chocolate or coffee, which tend to keep you up, should be avoided at least three to six hours before bed. Alcohol prohibits you from getting quality sleep and should be avoided late at night. While alcohol is sedative, the process of metabolizing it can cause fragmented sleep and insomnia.
- Avoid exercising at night or before bed
Aim to finish any physical activity at least 90 minutes before you get ready for bed. If you do exercise at night, this downtime will give your body the chance to wind down endorphin levels and lower your core body temperature to normal levels conducive to sleep.
- Reduce your screen time
Light from your electronic devices can affect your circadian phase. Exposing yourself to too much blue light can result in greater trouble falling asleep, activate anxiety, and interfere with emotional regulation. Blue wavelengths are beneficial during the day because they boost attention, reaction time, and mood, but are disruptive at night because they suppress the release of your natural melatonin, which usually helps signal your body to fall asleep. Make sure to avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bedtime.
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