Experts say Daylight Saving Time can impact your sleep health

Six actions to take to help ease the transition
Experts say Daylight Saving Time can impact your sleep health
Experts say Daylight Saving Time can impact your sleep health(Pixabay)
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 5:47 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Daylight Saving Time (DST), the yearly practice of setting clocks forward one hour between March and November has been observed in much of the United States since 1966.

The idea behind DST is to “save” natural light, since spring, summer, and early fall days typically get dark later in the evening compared to late fall and winter days. When DST begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, 2022, we’ll set our clocks forward one hour, resulting in one less hour of sleep that night. Then, at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 6, 2022, we’ll set our clocks back one hour.

While adjusting the time by one hour may not seem like too drastic of a change, sleep experts have noted troubling trends that occur during the transition – particularly in March when we “spring forward.” The change can impact your mood and overall health, increasing your risk for gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches and joint pain, blood sugar and insulin system disruption, high blood pressure, seizures, and hallucinations. Diminished sleep can also create problems during sleep, causing sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and other sleep disorder symptoms.

“With most adults needing 7 to 8 hours of good-quality sleep every 24 hours, when we lose even one hour, we build up sleep debt that can impair our performance and be detrimental to our health,” said Alex McDonald, D.O., a primary care physician with Grandview Medical Group in Hoover. “The only way to pay off this debt is to get enough sleep. Good quality sleep plays a large role in promoting good health and success in life.”

Dr. McDonald suggests these six actions you can take in advance of the time change to help ease the transition and enhance your health over time:

  1. Gradually Alter Your Bedtime: Two to three days before the transition to DST, consider waking up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual. Then, on the Saturday before the time change, set your alarm clock back by an additional 15-20 minutes. Adjusting your wake-up time in steps can help the body make a smoother transition when the time change occurs.
  2. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Sleep hygiene refers to practices that can influence sleep for better or worse. To ease the time change transition, refrain from consuming alcohol before bed. While drinking can cause you to feel sleepy initially, alcohol also causes sleep disruptions and poor sleep quality.
  3. Establish a Consistent Sleep Routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day – including the weekends – is a healthy practice that can also prepare you for time changes.
  4. Spend Time Outdoors: Exposure to natural light can alleviate feelings of tiredness that often accompany time changes. Spending time outside during the day also suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for bed.
  5. Nap in Moderation: People who experience sleep debt because of DST may find some relief by taking short naps during the day. Limit naps to 20 minutes or less; otherwise, you may wake up feeling groggy. Rather than adjusting your wake-up time on Sunday morning of the time change, consider a nap that afternoon instead.
  6. Avoid Caffeine Too Close to Bedtime: Studies have found caffeine consumed within six hours of bedtime can disrupt your sleep cycle. Moderate amounts of caffeine in the morning or early afternoon should have less of an effect on your sleep.

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