Fall back or spring forward? Each spring, we set our clocks forward one hour. This year, Daylight Saving Time in Texas will start at 2 A.M. on Sunday, March 12. While the time change affects individuals in different ways, “losing” an hour of sleep in the spring is often more difficult to cope with. We’ll discuss how Daylight Saving Time affects your sleep cycle and offer some tips on how you can maintain healthy sleep habits through the change.
Your Body’s Circadian Rhythm
Your body’s circadian rhythm, or your internal clock, is influenced by the environment, behavior, and medications. We will focus on the environment and behavior. The primary environmental cue is light. When we spring forward, it may now be dark when you wake up in the morning to start the day. Morning light is a strong circadian cue that serves as an “alerting” signal to your body that it is time to wake up. On the flip side, your body produces melatonin when it is dark which helps you stay asleep. Not having natural light flood your bedroom may make it more difficult to adjust to the time change.
Behavior also affects our circadian rhythm as we are creatures of habit. Going to bed at the same time on a daily basis helps you get quality sleep. When Daylight Saving Time rolls around, do you sacrifice an hour of sleep or try to go to bed one hour earlier than usual? If you lose an hour of sleep, you may feel groggy the next day. If you try to go to bed earlier, you may have trouble falling asleep. We will offer some tips later to help you with this dilemma and ease the transition during the time change. Think of Daylight Saving Time as you do when you are changing time zones after a flight. The principal reason that many individuals struggle with jet lag is because your body’s internal clock struggles with shifts in sleep hours and routines.
The Importance of Quality Sleep
Sleep plays an important role in your day-to-day functioning and your overall health. Studies have shown that sleep impacts your metabolism, memory, mental and physical capabilities, stress level, and much more. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, can lead to unfavorable consequences such as daytime sleepiness, reduced concentration, mood disturbances, headaches, increased appetite, decreased immune function, and more.
A general rule of thumb is that it takes one day to adjust to a one hour shift in time. However, there is a wide range in how individuals react to shifts in time so some people struggle to a much higher degree than others. To ease the transition, we have several tips to maintain healthy sleep habits through Daylight Saving Time.
Maintaining Sleep Habits
It may be difficult for you to fall asleep one hour earlier than usual to make up for the “lost hour” as we spring forward. If that’s the case, it may be best to adjust your sleep schedule in more manageable chunks as recommended by the Cleveland Clinic. On the Thursday before Daylight Saving Time, go to sleep and wake up 20 minutes earlier than usual. Repeat this process on both Friday and Saturday. As a result, you have now made up the one hour of sleep lost in twenty-minute increments.
There are also many sleep habits that apply not only during Daylight Saving Time, but year-round. Most adults need eight to nine hours of sleep every night so make sure to schedule enough sleep. Other tips we recommend include limiting the use of electronics before bed, taking a hot shower, keeping work activities away from the bedroom, wearing a sleep mask, and reducing caffeine intake in the evening. For more insight on getting quality sleep, check out our blog on the topic.
An Indication of a Sleep-Related Disorder?
If you struggle to get quality sleep year-round rather than only around Daylight Saving Time, this may be an indication of a more serious sleep-related disorder. An estimated 15% of the U.S. population suffers from some type of sleep-related disorder, with the most common types being snoring and sleep apnea. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a great screening tool to evaluate for potential sleep-related disorders. Take the questionnaire on our website to see where you fall. If you are having trouble sleeping, we can help! Schedule an appointment with us today so we can identify what is going on and offer the right solution.