Losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Saving Time does not have to disrupt your sleep cycle or your well being when setting the clocks forward Sunday, March 8, at 2 a.m.
“Usually a one-hour time difference doesn’t have a big effect on a person’s sleep habits, but for some it can be more difficult to adjust their biological clock, especially in a society where our busy lives result in so many people already being dangerously sleep deprived,” said Dr. Karin Johnson, a sleep specialist in the Neurology Division at Baystate Medical Center. “As a rule, especially for adults, a one-hour time change should not take more than one day for the body to adjust to the new time.”
Easier on your body
According to Dr. Johnson, the November time change, when Daylight Saving Time ends, is usually easier on our systems because we are gaining an extra hour. The March Daylight Saving change typically results in less sleep from the hour lost and it is harder for the body’s circadian rhythms to adjust to a later time.
“Our bodies’ circadian rhythms are important for our ability to sleep at night and function well during the day, but are also important for our bodies’ health,” she said.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a higher rate of heart attacks in the weeks following spring Daylight Saving Time compared to the weeks prior to daylight saving going into effect.
Make the process easier
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier a few days prior to the actual time change, a practice you can also use with younger children who might find it more difficult to adjust to the change. They also suggest setting your clocks ahead early on Saturday so you lose an hour of being awake instead of an hour of sleep by going to bed at your normal time.
Baystate Medical Center’s Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Center and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine offer the following tips to minimize any disruption to your sleep cycle whether during the switch to Daylight Saving Time or anytime:
- Do not nap during the day. If you must snooze, limit the time to less than one hour and no later than 3 p.m.
- Adults and children should maintain a regular wake-up time, even on weekends.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, heavy meals, and exercising a few hours before bedtime.
- Stick to rituals that help you relax before going to bed. This can include such things as a warm bath, a light snack or a few minutes of reading.
- Don’t take your worries to bed. Bedtime is a time to relax, not to hash out the stresses of the day.
- If you can’t fall asleep, leave your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity. Return to bed only when you are tired.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and a little cool.
Sleeping disorders and deprivation
More than half of all Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Sleep needs depend on many factors, including age. For most adults, 7-9 hours a night is recommended to achieve good health and optimum performance. It is recommended that children in pre-school sleep between 10-13 hours a night, and school-aged children between 9-11 hours of sleep a night. Teenagers, on average, require about 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
Sleep deprivation can adversely affect an individual’s health and performance, as well as jeopardize their safety and the safety of others. A sleep-deprived person is likely to have less energy, difficulty concentrating, make poor decisions and increase errors. They may even fall asleep during work, in class, or while driving. Other effects of sleep deprivation include irritability, anxiety, and symptoms of depression, as well as such health risks as high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity, and diabetes.
If the switch to Daylight Saving Time causes sleep disruptions lasting longer than a few weeks, consider seeing your doctor who may recommend seeing a sleep specialist.
Baystate Medical Center’s Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Center provides the latest high-technology testing and diagnosis for all types of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, snoring, and sleepwalking.