Every spring, we set our clocks ahead one hour and lose an hour of sleep. And every spring, it feels like it takes days and sometimes weeks to adjust to the spring forward for daylight saving time.
Unfortunately, the effects of daylight saving time on the body can be unhealthy. However, there are some things you can do to adjust to these big yearly changes. They may even have a positive effect on your health.
“Preparing for this change is so important because even though it seems like just a shift in one hour of sleep, it can have severe effects on the body,” James Tita, DO, a pulmonary, critical care and sleep disorders physician in our Toledo market, shares. “The best way to deal with it is to prepare for this time change several days in advance.”
Health effects of daylight saving time
Studies have shown that time changes over time cause:
- Immune system disruption
- Increase in depression and mood disorder symptoms
- Liver function disruption
- More risk for heart attacks
- More risk for strokes
- More risk for traffic accidents
- More risk for workplace injuries
- Sleep problems from disruption to circadian rhythms
While most of the impact of daylight saving time on your health is negative, there are a few positives. For example, with more daylight hours, you may spend more time outside. That extra hour can give you more time for evening walks or physical activity in general. Plus, this also means more opportunities to take advantage of natural sunlight and more vitamin D exposure.
“The two things that are the enemy of good sleep are, one, an irregular sleep schedule,” Dr. Tita shares. “A drastic difference between the times you go to bed and wake up during the week and those times on the weekends can disrupt your sleep rhythm.”
He continues, “the number two enemy is inadequate sleep. Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Although that number can be different for people, the fact is that most people are not getting enough sleep.”
Tips to help you spring forward
There are several ways you can keep yourself healthy when we spring our clocks forward.
Slowly change your bedtime
A week before the time changes, try adjusting your sleep schedule. Go to bed 15 to 30 minutes early. Try to get to an hour earlier by the end of the week. That way, you won’t miss that extra hour too much.
“You want to start changing your sleep schedule by going to bed earlier and getting up earlier to prepare for when you lose that hour,” Dr. Tita says.
Take a short nap
If you feel like you’re just too tired in the days after the time change and are falling asleep, take a nap. Don’t camp out in your bed for hours, though. Aim for a quick 20- to 30-minute nap. And don’t nap too close to bedtime.
Wipe out your social schedule for a week or two
Take it easy for the first week or two. Keep your daily routine light. If possible, avoid any stressful deadlines at work. You may even want to take a day off. This will give you some time to relax and get used to the lack of sleep.
Maintain your sleep schedule
But while you lighten your daily schedule, don’t change your nightly one. Keep your bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time. Wake up at the same time. Don’t be tempted to sleep in on Sunday morning after the time changes.
Enjoying some exercise each day can help you get a good night’s sleep. It can also help improve your mood. This can help with the sleep problems or depression that may come with the time change. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime.
Create a comfy place to sleep
Your bedroom should be a comfortable place to sleep every day of the year. But make some extra effort for daylight saving time. Keep it cool and dark. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress with soft, clean sheets and pillows. Avoid screens before bed. If you need something to do, read or listen to music instead of watching TV or playing games on your phone.
Watch what you eat and drink
Finally, watch your diet. Eat a light meal at night. Avoid spicy or fatty foods that could keep you up with heartburn. Avoid alcohol and caffeine if possible. If you do drink them, don’t drink them more than six hours before bedtime.
“Think of daylight saving time as a shift in time zone. It’s easier to fly from Ohio to California – fall back – than it is to fly from California to Ohio – spring forward,” Dr. Tita explains. “Without proper preparation, your body will just be thrown into it and we all know how lousy that makes us feel.”
Learn more about the sleep medicine services we offer at Mercy Health.