Danielle Ibelema, MD
How To Adjust to Daylight Savings
This weekend many in the United States will set their clocks ahead one hour for the Daylight Savings time change. The loss of an hour of sleep and the adjustment to the time change can be hard--especially for those who already have difficulties with sleep.
There’s a good deal of controversy surrounding the necessity of the time change. DST was implemented during WWI and WWII, and then finalized into law as a permanent fixture in 1966. Yet today, many are wondering if the biannual time changes make sense and if it lives up to the promise of helping with energy conservation.
The Daylight Savings time change is not just an nuisance; there are well researched concerns at play. The time change is associated with negative health and public safety outcomes that have a reach of weeks or sometimes months after the change. For instance, there is a higher rate of car accidents, heart attacks and strokes in the weeks following the Daylight Savings time change. We also see an increase in reported depressive and anxiety symptoms.
Here are a few tips to adjust to the time change.
Tip #1 - Start planning early
Any healthy adjustment requires time to allow for an adjustment period. Be proactive and start preparing a few days early by going to bed 15 - 30 minutes earlier than your usual bedtime. Small incremental changes in your sleep schedule can help the adjustment to the time change.
Tip #2 - Stick to a routine
During the Daylight Savings transition, it helps to be consistent with your usual activities. Try to keep bedtime, wake times, meal breaks, and exercise routines set to the usual times.
"Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live." – Jim Rohnility.
Tip #3 - Get sunshine
Try to get some sunshine in the morning. Sunlight signals to your brain that it's "time to wake up", and it can help your body's natural internal clock. If you are unable to get outside in the morning, using artificial light is an alternative.
Tip #4 - Limit caffeine
It's tempting to reach for the coffee when you're feeling tired, but too much can make your sleep pattern worse. Caffeine should be avoided 4-6 hours before bedtime, because the effects of caffeine can linger for many hours. Drinking coffee or other sources of caffeine later in the day and can affect the ability to fall asleep and sleep quality.
Daylight Savings Take Aways
The tips above are great to use as you cope with the time change. The time change can have minor and more adverse effects on health. If you have sleep problems at baseline or chronic illness, it's important to be proactive with measure that can make the transition as healthy as possible. Tune in to what your body and mind may need for this transition, and create a plan that you can use.